Illness no excuse for abuse

Illness no excuse for abuse

The life span of people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) averages just 48 years.

The syndrome is characterised by thin, translucent skin, easy bruising as well as fragile internal organs and blood vessels. Patients can also experience tears in their gastric lining, or have their organs haemorrhaging.

Still, taking marijuana, or cannabis, to deal with the genetic disorder is not the solution, said doctors.

And lawyers add that claiming to have a medical condition so you can take banned substances could get you into more trouble.

Last Wednesday, Leon Russel Francis, 22, a vascular EDS sufferer, appealed successfully against his eight-month jail term for taking cannabis. Francis, who claimed to have used cannabis to relieve him of the pain caused by his disorder, was put on probation for two years.

While cannabis, also known as marijuana and weed, is legal in places such as Amsterdam and some states in the US, it is banned here. This is due to Singapore's commitment to a 1961 international agreement to control the cultivation of the cannabis plant and their products, among other narcotic drugs.

Dr Chia Kok Hoong, a vascular surgeon in private practice, said chronic pain is a symptom that could come with EDS.

Dr Chia, who has 28 years' experience, said medication is available to relieve pain without the use of drugs and hallucinogens.

"If cannabis were the solution, then those suffering from congenital diseases would be smoking marijuana," he added.

While he does not wish to comment specifically on Francis' case, Dr Chia said patients he has encountered usually resort to drugs not just to alleviate the pain.

"When you take cannabis, you are not just getting rid of the pain. You are on a high," he said.

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