A Word from Dr Greg White, Cromwell Family Practice GP


Refusal says much about views on issue

Last year New Zealand exercised its democratic muscle and voted on cannabis and euthanasia.

Cannabis was in my opinion fortunately kept illegal, and euthanasia unfortunately made legal. From this week assisted dying can begin.

I will not be assisting in the process, and I know of nobody who is. Otago Community Hospice has been clear that it will not assess or participate in euthanasia.

I think this says a lot; that the experts in this area are not comfortable with it and were not listened to. The reasons for dissent are many, including aiding a suicide, potential for things to go horribly wrong, family disagreements, splintering of care and the psychological toll on those involved.

GPs are obliged to refer people to the Ministry of Health-led SCENZ group, which holds a list of accredited practitioners that we currently don’t have access to.

Doctors are not allowed to initiate conversations about assisted dying but will be happy to discuss people’s concerns if they believe this is an option.

The second item was cannabis law.

During training in Hanmer Springs and in psych wards, I saw first-hand how nearly half of residents arrived addicted to cannabis, many with psychosis.

For now at least, our young people are not freely exposed to it and those peddling it.

However, we have pushed ahead with sanitising cannabis as medicinal.

Until recently, I thought I was somehow ignorant and had missed something along the way, how a dangerous psychoactive substance had become magically beneficial.

I resolved to up my game, including listening to a recent webinar by the former head of one of the country’s largest rehab and pain units.

Instead I realised he was simply paid to promote his company, and could offer no good data to show safety or effectiveness.

Most medicinal products have varying levels of THC.

They are botanical extracts, not medicine in the traditional sense, so every batch will vary.

The slick promotional materials from companies make a vast array of unproven claims, including curing cancer.

There is a lot of hype and little substance, and it seems greed, not an altruistic rush to cure cancer, is driving the cannabis industry.

Let’s all shout a little less and listen more.