Pubdate: Wed, 28 Aug 2002
Source: Ha'aretz (Israel)
Copyright: 2002sHa'aretz Daily Newspaper Ltd.
Author: Haim Shadmi


The Health Ministry recently gave a terminally-ill cancer patient 
permission to smoke marijuana to ease his suffering. The ministry's 
approval was rushed through the required channels because of the patient's 
serious condition.

Over the past six years, the ministry has given similar permission to eight 
others, accepting half the requests it received. The director- general of 
the Health Ministry, Dr. Boaz Lev, said the permit had been expedited due 
to the patient's condition and the accompanying medical problems.

Four weeks ago, the patient's attorney, Avraham Bardugo, asked the Health 
Ministry to allow his client to use marijuana to alleviate his suffering, 
in accordance with recommendations of his doctors.

"It is quite clear the patient is exceeding the quantity of medications 
prescribed to him and the doctors are turning a blind eye and are 
continuing to supply him with the drugs in light of his condition," Bardugo 
wrote to Yitzhak Berlowitz, deputy director- general at the Health 
Ministry. "It appears marijuana will reduce the quantity of morphine-based 
drugs he is taking outside all proportion." Bardugo's correspondence with 
the Health Ministry showed the the patient as "a man on his death bed for 
whom every moment brings suffering and torture."

In October 1999, a Health Ministry panel, headed by Lev, determined that 
treatment with marijuana would be permitted in extreme cases to alleviate 
suffering coming directly from a patient's illness. An advisory board at 
the ministry deals with each request concerning the use of marijuana, 
making its decision based on the recommendations of the patient's doctors 
and the medical records and documents it receives.

Marijuana is used to stimulate the appetites of AIDS patients, to prevent 
nausea and pain in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and to ease the 
suffering of people with multiple sclerosis.
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