What would you do if your daughter had an incurable disease? A daughter destined to spend the rest of her life having frequent seizures, uncontrollable by any medicine available in your country? Or, worse: whose only medicine could be acquired abroad, but your country forbids it and labels you a criminal if you do that? What would you do if, to control your daughter’s seizures and give her a modicum of comfort, you had to go against the state and import medical marijuana illegally?
That is a true story. Katiele struggles to treat her daughter’s epilepsy with CBD (Cannabidiol), a substance derived from marijuana and forbidden in Brazil. As part of the Brazilian war on drugs, Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency) bureaucrats have decided that the medical use of marijuana is impermissible inside the country.
As Katiele explains in her video (fittingly titled Illegal), no other medicine available in Brazil can control her daughter’s disease. None. Nevertheless, she found out that CBD is an effective alternative. The obstacle: The Brazilian government forbids the recreational as well as medicinal use of marijuana. What should she do, then? “The despair of having your daughter seizing every day, every time, is so huge that we decided to deal with it no matter what it took, even if we had to bring the medicine in illegally, and that’s what we did,” she said.
According to the state, this mother acted as a criminal. For anyone with a minimal sense of justice, she did the right thing. There are times when the only alternative for decent people is to break the law, including through entrepreneurial civil disobedience. If you, in breaking the law, do not hurt anyone and even benefits people, generating value, that by itself shows that the law in question obstructs society’s well-being generated through free production, exchange and association. That is even more salient when the value generated is the health of a epileptic kid.
On April 5, Katiele and her daughter had a judicial victory. In an historic decision, the federal justice in Brasilia determined that Anvisa should provide the family with CBD for the administration of treatment.
This is not the end, however. The agency can still appeal, the ban on medical marijuana continues in Brazil and the war on drugs, with all its dire consequences, goes on. Apparently, in this country, you have to sue the state to be able to get a permit to prevent such a very avoidable and treatable condition, just because some bureaucrat decided at some point that marijuana is evil.
I can imagine how this mother has suffered. My own sister had a birth condition and suffered from epilepsy. It would have been sad to see her going untreated and having constant seizures because there is someone blocking access to medicine.
Note: The point is not that there is no treatment. It is not that the mother does not have the money and the means to get hold of the medicine. If she did not have money, there would still be hope: Donations or philanthropic institutions, for example. The problem is that the state stands between the mother and legal access to treatment.
In an article for the Center for a Stateless Society, Marja Erwin brought up the question of how a free society, even an anarchist one, would deal with disability, and whether “exchange, on its own, fully includes those of us with disabilities.” Statist societies have systematically denied the access to medicine or treatments on paternalistic grounds and are at times the largest hindrance to health care, either due to hurdles to medical innovations or due to the increased costs of treatment.
Trying to minimize someone’s agony should not be against the law. What should be against the law, however, is the nanny state’s condemnation of Katiele’s daughter to perpetual suffering. What should be against the law is the existence of such an institution as the state, whose acts within its borders remind us of the inscription on the door of Dante Alighieri’s hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Translated from Portuguese into English by Erick Vasconcelos.
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