Deadlock over treatment of child with severe epilepsy triggers federal health minister intervention


By Tessa Hoffman

16 Aug 2018

A stand-off between a mother and the Queensland government over the treatment of a child with severe epilepsy has reached a flash point, triggering an intervention by federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

The stoush centres around nine-year-old Kaitlyn Spraggon, who is severely disabled and was booked in for spinal and hip surgery earlier this year at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane.

The child’s mother Katrina Spraggon is refusing to allow the surgery unless the hospital allows her to continue to dose her daughter with an illegally produced home-made whole cannabis plant extract, which she claims has controlled her daughter’s seizures since 2014.

Ms Spraggon further claims that her daughter is allergic to the medication the hospital proposes to use while carrying out the surgery – the removal of metal spinal rods and surgery to correct hip dislocation – and it could cause a fatal adverse reaction.

The woman has found an ally in Queensland One Nation leader and Senate candidate Steve Dickson, who in a television broadcast accused the state Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of “looking to potentially kill a little girl instead of letting her have an operation using the existing medical regime she is on”.

Under Queensland laws, medicinal cannabis is only legal if prescribed by a doctor with the necessary state and Commonwealth approvals, and any use outside this becomes an offence and may attract both administrative and criminal penalties.

Now Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has waded into the fray, writing to Premier Palaszczuk asking “whether there is an opportunity to give consideration to the specific history of this case and work through a solution individualised for Ms Spraggon’s daughter”.

“I would support any decision you may make to ensure that Kaitlyn is able to receive the surgery she needs without jeopardising her current medication regimen which appears to have been achieving positive results for her ongoing wellbeing,” Mr Hunt wrote in the letter seen by the limbic.

Mr Hunt has also written to NSW health minister Brad Hazzard on August 9 asking he find a place in a public hospital for the girl to have the operation, suggesting the state and federal health departments seek to identify a legal product similar in composition to the plant extract that Ms Spraggon ­produces at home, according to an article in The Australian.

Minister Hazzard said he would seek advice from NSW Health but “at the end of the day it still has to be the decision of the prescribing doctors. It is a medical issue”.

Asked to address claims made against the hospital, Queensland Health responded in a statement saying that “privacy concerns mean it’s not appropriate for us to discuss the details of individual patients and their treatment”.

“Queensland has a world-class health system, with world-class clinicians. Our clinicians are committed to making sure every patient – including Ms Spraggon’s daughter – receives the best possible care.

“Health professionals working in Queensland Hospitals are obliged to abide by Queensland Health and Hospital and Health Service policies and procedures, and to work within the law.”

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