Humanitarian crisis in Israel

Sick children? Epilepsy and autism? In Israel?

No, this must be a mistake.

Impossible to believe!

If you were in my shoes you would have no choice but to believe it. For the past four or so years Israel’s Medical Cannabis Authority (IMCA) allowed physicians to apply for a license for medical cannabis for children with epilepsy and later autism. The results have been gratifying to say the least. To date, several thousand children were granted under the auspices of the Ministry of Health access to what remains in Israel a Schedule One Dangerous Substance – marijuana!? Many who could not stop having seizures stopped, many autistic children with dangerous violent fits of frustration simply stopped and started to develop. Each child adjusted to a specific strain of cannabis at an empirically arrived at dose. 

If this were say an antibiotic, and a Health Ministry would suddenly stop providing the drug for some complicated and hardly urgent reorganization, and sick children’s health and even lives were compromised…there is no such if. No physician would agree to it. No state could tolerate it.

But that is precisely the situation in Israel as I write. One man, the CEO of IMCA, a pharmacist, has implemented a new policy (aka Reformation) which now instantly puts an end to the needed and by now well tried cannabis oils that children and their families have learned to depend upon!

The organization of patients appealed to the Supreme Court but as of this past Sunday it looks like the Court will allow the Attorney General to argue administrative complexities for the foreseeable future, while the DEADLY impact on children is happening NOW.

The horrible paradox is that the Health Ministry has allowed an immediate PIKUAH NEFESH to be created.

There is only one possible solution at this point.

This appeal is to the Rabbinic Authorities in the Jewish World, both in and outside Israel.

  1. The appeal of the patients against the Reform has clear medical opinion, while the defense of the Reform was unable to muster a single physician who would justify it.
  2. The physician in charge of IMCA resigned/was resigned stating the Reform harms patients.
  3. I am taking medical and halakhic responsibility – I have no choice – to make a clear medical statement that implementation of this reform has immediate and life-threatening implications. It must be stopped instantly.
  4. The details of regulating cannabis is not urgent – even economically. The Reform instantly cuts thousands of needy children from the best treatment they have ever had –  a life saving treatment. Not a single physician who personally treats these children has stated any opinion other than the one stated here.
  5. When responsible treating physicians make a statement of PIKUAH NEFESH it requires an immediate Halakhic response – in this case freezing the reform. The rest can be sorted out deeply – BUT NEVER AT THE COST OF RISKING THE LIVES OF CHILDREN.
  6. My grandfather loved to tell the story of a brilliant rabbinical student in  a yeshiva in Eastern Europe taking his test for Ordination. “If you see a man drowning and you are wearing Tefillin, what do you do?” The student hesitated for a moment to begin the learned answer, and was promptly flunked. “You jump in the water, think later,” he was told. While the High Court and the Ministry daven over the future, who will jump now?
About the Author
Alan Flashman was born in Foxborough, MA, and gained his BA from Columbia, MD from NYU, Pediatrics, Adult and Child Psychiatry at Albert Einstein. He has practiced in Beer Sheba since 1983, and taught mental health at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University. Alan has also edited readers on Therapeutic Communication with Children (2002) and Adolescents (2005).
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