Doctors who refuse to give medicinal cannabis to their patients should not be harassed or fear losing their jobs over their decision, the Health Minister has said.
Deputy Richard Renouf’s comments came in response to questioning from Deputy Montfort Tadier during yesterday’s States Assembly meeting.
His query followed comments made by the island’s leading pain specialist, Dr Chad Taylor, who last year told Express that he felt "duty-bound" not to prescribe medicinal cannabis to his patients.
Dr Taylor expressed concern that the recent political decision to allow GPs to prescribe cannabis-derived drugs, as well as public expectation, had placed doctors in the difficult position of feeling pressured to give the substances to their patients, even though their professional guidance does not fully endorse their effectiveness or safety.
Pictured: Deputy Montfort Tadier said that doctors should not make "blanket" statements that they will not prescribe medicinal cannabis, arguing instead that patients should be considered "on a case-by-case basis".
But Deputy Tadier suggested that this was against the will of the States Assembly, grilling the Health Minister yesterday over whether consultants “who indicate that they will not act in accordance… should remain in the employment of the States of Jersey?”
The Minister, however, said that last year’s vote only gave medical professionals the “option” to prescribe medicinal cannabis, but did not oblige them to do so.
He said that it was not politicians’ place to interfere in professional medical decisions.
Making reference to previous issues with a “bullying and harassment culture” within the States, Deputy Renouf went on to strongly condemn any suggestion that medical staff should face sanctions for deciding not to prescribe medicinal cannabis to their patients – words that were met with foot-stamping approval from States Members.
Pictured: The Health Minister strongly condemned the idea of practitioners facing sanctions over their medical judgments.
“[They] shouldn’t feel their employment is at risk if they exercise their clinical judgment in a way that might not meet with the approval of certain States Members,” he told the Assembly.
Responding to Deputy Tadier’s suggestion that Dr Taylor’s refusal to prescribe medicinal cannabis could amount to “insubordination”, the Health Minister added: “I consider the Deputy’s remarks appalling. He is passing comment on the professional judgment of a gentleman who has spent his many years in Jersey addressing difficult issues that islanders suffer when islanders are trying to manage pain.”
He later reiterated Dr Taylor’s interest in clinical trials, stating that he supported all moves to develop an “evidence base” for prescribing medicinal cannabis for treating pain.
He also said that, despite Dr Taylor feeling “duty-bound” not to prescribe the medication for pain control until there was greater evidence for its effectiveness, that the medication was being successfully used to treat the symptoms of epilepsy and MS, and the side-effects of chemotherapy treatment.
Deputy Tadier concluding his grilling of the Minister by reminding him that consultants must make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
“It’s a heavy burden to discharge to go against your professional guidance… The question is always, ‘What is the best for my patient?’ I am confident that is how practitioners would proceed,” the Minister replied.
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