Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jun 2017
Source: Guardian, The (CN PI)
Copyright: 2017 The Guardian, Charlottetown Guardian Group Incorporated
Page: A8


It appears that Dr. Hendrik Visser isn't your typical medical adviser
for the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) of P.E.I. The position
usually goes to a doctor who has spent a number of years in private or
general practice, is getting close to retirement and assumes this less
strenuous role, while easing towards hanging up the

Apart from testifying at appeal hearings over disputed medical claims
or decisions, the adviser often keeps a low profile, and is rarely the
public face of the WCB.

Dr. Visser appears ready to change that image if his remarks this week
are any indication. At the WCB's annual meeting, Dr. Visser was to
speak on 'medical marijuana in the workplace.' The topic is certainly
relevant as the recreational drug is now regularly prescribed for pain

Dr. Visser didn't feel constrained by his topic. He proceeded to
question the safety of using marijuana and the validity of research on
pain relief. He then lumped marijuana in with much stronger and
dangerous drugs and expressed his skepticism about cannabis being a
'magic bullet' cure. The conclusion is that any use of marijuana is
unacceptable or even dangerous, and that Dr. Visser obviously wants
nothing to do with it.

The WCB is seeing increasing claims for coverage of medical cannabis
and based on Dr. Visser's comments, it will be a tough sell convincing
the person responsible for reviewing cases and providing medical
opinions on injury claims.

Isn't most medical opinion past this point by now? Medical marijuana
is widely prescribed, based on years of use and research. The
recommendation is for adult use only and for young people not to use
the drug until the brain is developed and only then in moderation -
just like alcohol.

Dr. Visser is being overly cautious, almost to the point of fear
mongering. He lumped marijuana in with other drugs seen in the past as
miracle cures but which later proved to be harmful and addictive, such
opium, Valium and Oxycontin. He suggested history might repeat itself
and that medical marijuana could prove to become a similar
pharmaceutical crisis.

Opioid addictions have certainly reached a crisis level, largely
because medical professionals over-prescribed the drug for chronic
pain, without realizing its highly addictive side effects.

The WCB has a legal opinion that employers have to accommodate
employees who take medically prescribed marijuana. But it appears such
claims on P.E.I. will face tough scrutiny. Will Dr. Visser let his
personal views influence WCB claims involving medical marijuana? He
says not, but will look for added guidance from other jurisdictions
and will seek more research results.

Caution is his operative word. It might not result in the best
decision for injured workers living with daily pain.

Dr. Visser's comments certainly were not what people expected. He
raises serious concerns and questions, which will give clients cause
to think twice. It's not exactly what an injured worker suffering from
chronic pain wants to hear.
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