Pubdate: Wed, 13 Mar 2002
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2002 Reuters Limited
Author: Rosella Lorenzi


FLORENCE, Italy - A judge has forced Italy's national
health system to allow a woman with terminal lung cancer to use
marijuana-based drugs for pain treatment.

Venice's magistrate Barbara Bortot ruled Tuesday that the local
medical authorities of San Dona di Piave, near Venice, where the woman
lives, must obtain the drugs abroad and then provide them free of
charge to the patient.

The patient asked the permission of the magistrate, since
cannabis-based painkilling drugs are banned in Italy.

Judge Bortot ruled that the right to health, decreed in article 32 of
the Constitution, allows the use of the drugs.

"When there is an insuppressible need for which the national
healthcare doesn't offer alternative remedies, the individual's right
to health imposes without limits or conditioning of any sort," wrote
the judge.

It is the first time that Italy's national health system has been
obliged to provide banned drugs free of charge.

While Canada, the UK, Spain, Australia, Holland and some US states
have legalised the use of marijuana as a treatment for chronic
illnesses, in Italy there is no legal way to obtain it but to ask a

Judge Bordot took into consideration the patient's terminal illness.
According to the magistrate, in this case "the massive use of
painkilling drugs allowed in the country is totally useless and
moreover can cause further damage."

According to the ruling, San Dona di Piave's local medical authorities
will have 30 days to provide the patient with the drugs. Italy will
probably request them from the Bureau for Medicinal Cannabis of the
Dutch Health Ministry, according to the daily newspaper Corriere della

The ruling could pave the way for many other requests from patients
with illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, said the
Italian Association for Therapeutic Cannabis.

"It is a ruling that gets Italy closer to the rest of Europe. We hope
this will become a precious precedent for all those who claim the
right of using cannabis as a therapeutic drug," the association said
in an official statement.
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