Fans of the UK morning talkshow This Morning are blasting its hosts for cutting short a segment featuring Charlotte Caldwell, a UK mother who has been at the center of a national controversy surrounding medical cannabis. Caldwell appeared on the show to discuss her ongoing difficulties accessing life-saving cannabis medication for her son Billy Caldwell, who suffers from a severe form of childhood epilepsy.
But This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby abruptly ended their conversation with Charlotte Caldwell, turning instead actors who play doctors on the popular UK soap opera Doctors. Fans viewed the quick end to Caldwell’s heartfelt presentation as derailing an important conversation about life-threatening illness and propping up the anti-drug stigmas surrounding medical cannabis in the UK.
Since mid-2018, Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy have been at the center of controversy over medical marijuana laws in the United Kingdom. And it’s because of Caldwell’s tireless advocacy that the UK changed its drug policy slightly to create medical cannabis exemptions in very limited circumstances.
It all began in June 2018, when U.K. border security officials at Heathrow Airport seized the CBD oil Caldwell had obtained in Canada to treat her 12-year-old son Billy’s epilepsy. Billy’s severe form of epilepsy causes up to 100 seizures per day. But CBD oil helped greatly reduce the frequency and intensity of those life-threatening seizures. When boarder officials seized the six-month supply of CBD oil Caldwell came back with from Canada, Caldwell said they “most likely signed my son’s death warrant.”
The very day after officials seized Billy’s medicine, he suffered the first seizures he’d had in months, his mother reported. Four days after being deprived of his CBD oil medication, Billy’s mom had to hospitalize him in critical condition. British media said that legal “rescue medications” failed to stop his massive, intractable epileptic seizure.
In the meantime, Billy’s story went viral, prompting massive, international public outrage and condemnation of the UK’s restrictive medical cannabis policy. The previous year, Billy had received temporary authorization form the National Health Service to obtain and use medical cannabis treatments. But after that authorization expired, Caldwell had to travel to Canada to replenish the supply of CBD oil.
The international outcry ultimately forced UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid to issue a 20-day temporary license for the medication. Resuming his treatment with CBD oil, doctors discharged Billy from the hospital three days after his arrival.
Despite nearly costing Billy Caldwell his life, the harrowing incident compelled UK lawmakers and officials to finally address medical cannabis policy. But it wasn’t the end of Billy and Charlotte Caldwell’s difficulties obtaining CBD oil.
Since the 2018 incident at Heathrow, Charlotte Caldwell has had to navigate miles of bureaucratic red tape to keep a supply of CBD oil available for her son. First, she had to seek a license for the medicine from the government of Northern Ireland, where she and Billy live. And to get that, she needed to obtain a second opinion from a doctor in London.
But despite meeting the requirements to obtain the authorization, the NHS in Belfast has so far refused to cover the costs of Billy’s CBD oil medication. As a result, Charlotte has had to pay £1,500 (US$1,900) out of pocket for it. And now, she’s running out, and is struggling to come up with the funds to pay for more.
That’s why Charlotte Caldwell was on This Morning. She was there to share her heart-wrenching story about Billy and to raise public awareness that he and children like him and their families are still struggling to obtain NHS-funded doctor-recommended medical cannabis.
But in the middle of her story, This Morning hosts abruptly cut the segment short. It’s not exactly clear why. But some of the show’s viewers, sympathetic with the Caldwells’ fight, let the show have it.
“This is actually disgusting and the team at #ThisMorning should be ashamed of themselves. Unbelievable,” one fan tweeted. “Extremely rude of Phil & Holly. It was a serious chat about a life-threatening illness! The stigma was there, plain to see from #ThisMorning!” tweeted another.
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