He was my colleague and friend. He was also creative, sensitive, caring and an inspiring teacher of medicine. He was admired, respected and loved by his family, friends, students and patients. In addition to this, he was dying of a cancer which was slowly growing and expanding in his chest despite aggressive chemotherapy treatment.
My colleague and friend knew he was dying and accepted his fate with his usual grace and dignity. What he was not accepting or tolerating well was the terrible side effects his chemotherapy was creating within his body. Unable to tolerate foods because of unrelenting and severe nausea and vomiting, my friend was slowly losing weight and wasting away, his strength taken from him by the very medication he was taking to fight for his life. Nothing seemed to work. Every possible treatment for nausea and vomiting failed to bring him some relief and comfort or his appetite back.
If something did not happen soon, we all knew the chemotherapy would have to be stopped and any chance for an extended period of remission or comfort would end. But something did happen and my friend told me about it one beautiful fall day while I sat with him on his porch overlooking the green hills of Tennessee. He told me how a month earlier, someone had brought him marijuana. Having never smoked and certainly never having used illegal substances, my friend was at first reluctant to try the carefully rolled cigarette handed to him. However, he was desperate and sick of being sick, and so he agreed to give it a try. What he found out amazed him. Marijuana curbed his nausea, stimulated his appetite and generally elevated his mood. In addition, some of the dull pain in his chest was diminished. That afternoon he told he was hoping to be able to continue his new found illegal treatment. He knew it would not be easy.
... involvement The following are general guidelines for tailoring chemotherapy and hormone treatment: - cancers which are in situ and are ... There is no pain resulting from chemotherapy - Nausea - most drugs do not cause immediate nausea. Some nausea can result from acid secretion, ... or social worker at a mental health institution -Friends, relatives and colleagues are valuable sources of information ...
Today, the controversy of whether to legalize marijuana for certain medical conditions continues to be debated by the medical community and society. While the debate rages on, many sufferers of AIDS and cancer are going to “clubs” where they can buy marijuana in the form of banana bread, magic brownies and “merry pills”. In order to buy these products, an individual must have a note from his or her doctor stating that they have AIDS or cancer or another condition with symptoms that marijuana is known to help. While 30 cities and towns around this country have such “clubs”, clearly the largest is the cannabis buyers club of San Francisco. Some eight thousand members come regularly to alleviate the terrible symptoms their disease or treatment is causing. The proprietor of the club in San Francisco risks a 3-year sentence for every bag of grass he sells, and he sells a lot – 40 pounds or $60,000 worth each week. Yet the police in San Francisco are looking the other way and leaving the club alone basically because of a series of compassionate use resolutions and decisions by the political system.
These resolutions order the police to place the lowest priority on enforcing marijuana laws when the violators are seeking relief from illness and its symptoms. While politicians maintain a strong desire to keep marijuana illegal, even for patients who could benefit from its use, surveys show that many oncologists routinely recommend marijuana to their patients to treat the terrible nausea brought on by chemotherapy. Many physicians have noted that marijuana helps combat the wasting syndrome that many patients with AIDS and cancer have. In addition to these ailments, marijuana is occasionally the only drug that sufficiently lowers ocular pressure in patients with glaucoma and eases spastic episodes in sufferers of multiple sclerosis. While the basic ingredient of marijuana – THC – is legally available in the form of a synthetic pill called Marinol and costs several dollars a pill, most patients state that it doesn’t work as well as the real thing.
... illegal. It should therefore be legal for licensed physicians to prescribe marijuana for terminal patients for whom it Offers the only reasonable opportunity ... has aided the ill both mentally and physically--marijuana. Significant scientific and medical studies have demonstrated that marijuana is safe for use under medical supervision ...
Another battle being waged in our country today is that of physician-assisted suicide. It seems to me that if a physician could do a better job of alleviating pain and suffering in our patients with terrible diseases such as AIDS and cancer, many in our society would not be asking for our assistance to end their lives. Rather, the medical community could be assisting these individuals to live a reasonably comfortable and symptom free life until the inevitability of death occurs. Just like my friend and colleague so many years ago found out, others hopefully will allow physicians to prescribe marijuana to certain patients. Physicians are well schooled in prescribing controlled substances such as morphine, Demerol, Percodan and Dilaudid. There is no reason why you could not do the same with marijuana. There is no good reason not to legalize marijuana for certain patients who need its medicinal properties.
Recently, the Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association in a report entitled “Good Care of Dying Patients” adopted certain recommendations, the first of which states that that AMA should encourage research into the needs of dying patients and how the health care system could better serve them. One such research project should include whether marijuana truly benefits the dying. If it does, politicians should change their position and legalize it for medicinal use.