Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘sympathy

“Outrageous Scaremongering” Over Cannabis

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Last October,  36-year old Julie Ryan was found dead in bed by her three children, now aged 14, 13 and 8.  At a coroner’s inquest in Oldham last week, pathologist Dr Sami Titi said “The direct cause of her death was cardiac arrest because of a history of smoking cannabis”.

Dr Sami Titi

Julie’s family claims that this is not true, that Julie’s cannabis use has been blamed because the Royal Oldham hospital failed to treat her properly. In Britain, there has only been one previous occasion when a death has been attributed to cannabis. In 2004, Lee Maisey, 36 of Pembrokeshire, who smoked half a dozen “joints” a day, was found dead on his living room floor after complaining of a headache.

At the inquest in Oldham, the coroner, Simon Nelson, was said to be surprised at the pathologist’s story and questioned him closely. Dr Titi insisted that “smoking of cannabis is well known to have a negative impact on the heart and can cause heart attacks in young people”. The coroner said that in 15 years he had never heard a pathologist so confident that cannabis could be fatal. He recorded a narrative verdict of “death from cardiovascular complications induced by cannabis smoking”.

Coroner Simon Nelson

Julie’s brother, Kevin Ryan, says that the pathologist’s remarks are “outrageous scaremongering”. Her mother, Linda, is bewildered by events. As planned, Julie’s children had stayed with her while the inquest was taking place. Now they have returned home to the furore of this extraordinary verdict and are extremely distressed.

Julie had visited the Royal Oldham hospital several times complaining of chest pains but been sent away with a diagnosis of heartburn. The post mortem examination revealed she had a severely enlarged heart and had suffered a previous heart attack which had not been diagnosed. Family sources said “It’s a cover up. Cannabis doesn’t kill. They made a big mistake.” Mary Burrows, Julie’s cousin, who was very close to her, said she preferred to smoke cannabis rather than have a drink and that “she was a wonderful mother and her kids miss her so much”.

Dr Mark Eckersley, a local Manchester doctor, said “More and more pressure is being piled on medical professionals to propagate this type of untruth by the powers that be.” He said doctors need to maintain credibility with the community and that “this type of nonsense makes my blood boil”.

A spokesman for the Royal Oldham hospital said “Miss Ryan died from a heart attack and cardiovascular problems. Our thoughts and sympathy go to her family.”

On 2nd November in California, Proposition 19 is expected to permit the personal use of cannabis for the state’s 28 million adults. As a result, new tax revenues of $1.4 billion are anticipated, up to 110,000 new jobs and a boost of up to $18 billion to the state’s economy from spin-offs such as coffee shops and tourism.

In America, any health concerns about the plant are far outweighed by health benefits. Medical cannabis is already regulated in 14 states with another 12 in the planning stage. In Britain, Sativex, a whole plant extract of cannabis, was recently authorised as a treatment for MS. It costs about eight times what medical cannabis costs in America, Holland, Spain, Israel and very shortly Germany, where there is a fully regulated supply chain. In Britain, despite a House Of Lords Scientific Committee recommendation, the government refuses to consider such a move. Many patients whose doctors have prescribed Sativex have been denied funding from their health authority. In some of these cases, criminal prosecutions have been brought against them for cultivating their own plants.

A spokesman for GW Pharmaceuticals, developers of Sativex, said “The therapeutic ratio for cannabis is so high that it is virtually impossible to ingest a fatal dose”.

Prof. David Nutt

Professor David Nutt was sacked as chairman of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs last year after claiming that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. His successor, Professor Les Iversen, also maintains that cannabis has been “incorrectly” called dangerous and says it is one of the “safer recreational drugs”.

On Friday, Professor Nutt said cannabis “seems to cause much less harm than alcohol and that banning the plant is “unjust and therefore undemocratic”. He added: “The previous government’s policy to deter cannabis use by forceful policing increased convictions for cannabis possession from 88,000 in 2004 to 160,000 in 2008. As well as ruining many lives through getting a criminal record, this added massive costs to taxpayers in extra policing and prison costs.”

Prof. Les Iversen

Dr Sami Titi, the pathologist, was unavailable for comment and did not respond to emails. It has not been possible to identify any scientific support for his conclusions.

Julie Ryan’s family is left bemused and uncertain by this verdict. Three children are without a mother and confused about contradictory messages. The 13 year old has been posting on websites about her concerns. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office have criticised the government for basing drugs policy on opinion rather than evidence. James Brokenshire, the Home Office Minister, in direct contradiction to his own advisers, continues with the story that cannabis is “extremely harmful”.

James Brokenshire

Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg are on record over the last 10 years as consistently calling for reform in drug policy. The Your Freedom website has been overwhelmed with requests for evidence based regulation of drugs and the legalisation of cannabis but the government is riding roughshod over this public outcry. A consultation document on a new drugs strategy was issued just over a week ago but it seems meaningless and dishonest as all the big decisions have already been taken. Cannabis campaigners, working on behalf of six million regular users in the UK, are outraged at what they see as hypocrisy, misinformation and regressive government action.

Dr Mark Eckersley, exasperated and concerned at the pathologist’s evidence said “This is simply not true. Hearing this story is more likely to cause a heart attack than the ingestion of any cannabinoid”.

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Written by Peter Reynolds

August 31, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Health, Politics

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Moat’s Last Moments. Are All Our Policemen Wonderful?

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Almost Over

On Friday night they had Raoul Moat cornered at last.  It was the culmination of something more akin to a military invasion than a reasonable response to just one deranged nutter.   Northumbria Police had already made fools of themselves but we were all biting our lips,  not yet protesting, hoping against hope that there would be no further casualties.

The first photographs from the stand-off were released and they clearly showed police pointing tasers.  On BBC News the ex-police firearms expert was interviewed and asked why a taser couldn’t be used to disable Moat.  He answered quite unequivocally that using a taser when a man has a gun pointed at his head was more than likely to result in him firing the weapon involuntarily.

First thing on Saturday morning and it was no surprise to learn that Moat was dead.  What was utterly shocking was to learn that two tasers had been fired and the recording broadcast by the BBC revealed the shouting before the sound of the shotgun blast.  The unavoidable conclusion is that exactly what the firearms expert had predicted was what happened.

I don’t have any sympathy for Moat.  As far as I’m concerned a good case could have been made for him being shot on sight but I am very, very unhappy with the way the police handled the affair.

All Over Now

It may be that the denouement itself was handled properly.  We will never know what really happened however many inquiries we have.  What I am certain of is that overall the police should have done much better.  Those far, far better qualified to judge than me have already said as much.  I speak only as a concerned citizen.

I really worry about our police service.  While I believe there are many brave, honourable coppers, some of whom are highly skilled,  there are too many worrying indications that our police service is not up to the job.

There’s thuggery and the rank-closing covering-up and justification of it.  There’s the appalling canteen culture which is at the root of all the institutionalised racism, thuggery and freemasonry.  There’s the amateurish approach of senior officers who seem barely competent at times.  There is inevitably some corruption but also a long-running deception that the decision to prosecute is at arms length.  The police decide who to investigate in the first place. The CPS and the police eat in the same canteen

Look at the brutality of the police, the TSG in particular, at the Gaza and G20 protests and how they’ve got away with it.  Look at the Inspector Gadget police website for an insight into the disgusting attitude of many officers.   Look at the management of situations like the Cumbrian shootings and the Raoul Moat affair and the use of ludicrous, self-evidently bad ideas like the “kettling” at the Gaza and G20 protests.  Look at the income generation from speed cameras promoted by some chief constables.  Look at the absurd, intrusive, wildly excessive use of CCTV.  Look at the ridiculous administration routines that many chief constables have imposed.  Look at the insistence on retaining the DNA of innocent people.

The police are now very well paid.  A starting police officer gets about twice as much as a starting soldier.   They have wonderful pension arrangements.  They’re also excused, let off and get away with behaviour that should never be allowed.  Look at the thug, Sergeant Delroy Smellie , who repeatedly beat Nicola Fisher at the G20 protest and got away with it, or the officer who assaulted Ian Tomlinson, who later died, and who has still not been charged over a year later.

All the brave, honourable coppers are let down by those bad apples which myopic “support” of the police allows to rot and infect the rest.

The British police service needs a shake up.  It is complacent and inefficient.  Excellent work is done in anti-terrorism and organised crime but the truth is not all our policemen are wonderful.  We need to face up to that truth and make some changes.  Perhaps locally elected police chiefs are a way forward.