Northern Ireland

Parents of County Down girl believe cannabis oil could save her life

Sophia Gibson, from Newtownards, County Down, suffers from Dravet Syndrome
Image caption Sophia Gibson, from Newtownards, County Down, suffers from Dravet Syndrome

The parents of a five-year-old girl say they believe cannabis oil could drastically reduce the number of seizures she endures each day.

Sophia Gibson, from Newtownards, County Down, suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare genetic dysfunction of the brain that causes severe epileptic seizures.

Her parents, Danielle and Darren, say the daily cocktail of drugs Sophia currently takes is not working.

Despite the medication, she suffers more than 30 seizures a day.

Legislation to allow the medicinal use of cannabis is being debated in the Dáil (Irish parliament) on Thursday.

Sophia's parents will be watching the debate closely as they believe the answer to Sophia's seizures may lie in Cannabidiol (CBD), an oil derived from the cannabis plant.

CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two types of cannabinoids found naturally in the resin of the marijuana plant.

CBD oil does not contain THC, the psycho-active ingredient associated with the "high" in marijuana.

There is no restriction on the personal use of CBD oil. CBD oil has not yet been licensed in the UK as a medicine but can be prescribed by doctors in special circumstances.

A consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital told the Gibsons last week that CBD trials had been carried out and the results would be published in the new year.

Sudden death risk

However, Danielle believes that may not be soon enough for her daughter.

She told the BBC that as Sophia gets older, she is more prone to Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) and that she worries every morning as she wakes Sophia up.

The Dáil bill, proposed by People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, has the support of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, the Social Democrats and the Green Party.

The bill is expected to to have the support of 90 TDs, ensuring its passage through the House.

Last month, a mother from County Cork set out to walk 150 miles from the remote village of Aghabullogue to the Dáil in an effort to convince the Irish health minister to legislate for the drug's medicinal use.

Vera Twomey's daughter Ava also suffers from Dravet syndrome.

Before she had completed her walk, the health minister, Simon Harris, contacted her to offer assurance that his department would "review Ireland's policy on medicinal cannabis with the best clinical advice and expertise".

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