Doctor: Secret CBD treatment put boy at risk

  • 20/07/2015
Alex Renton (file)
Alex Renton (file)

One of the country's top doctors says he understands why the mother of a teenager in a coma secretly treated him with cannabinoid oil behind doctors' backs, but she shouldn't have done it.

Rose Renton, whose boy Alex Renton spent three months in a coma, admitted giving her son cannabis oil for seizures weeks before the treatment was approved.

Alex died in Wellington Hospital on July 1 after suffering from a form of prolonged seizure, known as status epilepticus.

Ms Renton told TV3's 3D yesterday she gave him Elixinol, a cannabinoid oil (CBD oil) product from the United States, three weeks before the Government dispensation had been granted.

"When no one was around I'd put it down the back of his mouth with a syringe. A mother would do anything."

Ms Renton led the campaign to have medicinal cannabis used in his treatment, before the one-off use was approved by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne in early June.

It was thought the unapproved medication may reduce the seizures and allow her son to be brought out of the coma.

Dr Stephen Child, chairman of the New Zealand Medical Association, says Ms Renton was in a difficult situation.

"This is a mother trying to do what was best for her son – it's a tragic, horrible case and I feel for the mother and I feel for everyone involved. But ethically, as a profession, we have the duty to do what is in the best interests of our patient," he told TV3's Paul Henry this morning.

"We can only give treatment that is in their best interest, and potentially, this medication may not have been in Alex's best interests, and therefore we should have known about it."

He said the Elixinol may have reacted with other drugs the teenager was being given, but it was impossible to know for sure.

"If you give two drugs – drug A and drug B – drug A may speed up the metabolism of drug B, and therefore you have lower levels of it. Or it may slow down the metabolism of drug B, and you may get toxic levels of it."

Ms Renton denies what she did put her son's life at risk.

"I don't believe that at all. And at the end of the day Alex would say, 'I'd rather die with an overdose of CBD oil than any of the shit that they put me on'."

Ms Renton said she knew what she did was illegal, but didn't care.

"They never listened to a word I said, ever. They never took any care. Why should I feel like a criminal for giving him something I know his body would respond to and need?"

Dr Child says doctors would have been happy to have a discussion with her about the use of CBD oil.

"The medical profession is open to trying new things, and did eventually get to do this – but it was after they tried all the things that are known to be effective."

Dr Child says it's not up the medical profession to push for charges against Ms Renton.

NZN / 3 News