Physician's License in Limbo After Advising Pot for Boy, 4

Marcia Frellick

February 01, 2019

The status of a California physician's medical license is in limbo after, according to court documents, he recommended that a 4-year-old boy eat cannabis-laced cookies to treat his behavioral problems.

According to the documents, on December 6 the California Medical Board ordered that the license of natural medicine physician William S. Eidelman, MD, of Los Angeles, California, be revoked after ruling that he improperly diagnosed the boy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder before recommending marijuana as the treatment. The way the doctor made the diagnosis and the information he used, the documents state, violated the standard of care and he committed "gross negligence."

However, on January 29, the San Francisco Superior Court granted a temporary stay and Eidelman's license remains active, with restrictions. A hearing on the license status is set for March 19.

Until the legal matters are resolved, according to the court documents, Eidelman is barred from treating any patient under the age of 18 and is barred from making any recommendation of cannabis treatment for any patient under the age of 18 or any adult "without obtaining a medical history and conducting a medical examination."

In the court documents, Eidelman admits to the events in September 2012, when the 4-year-old boy and his father had an appointment with Eidelman. The documents state that the chief complaint was the child had episodes of uncontrollable behavior problems and temper tantrums.

The documents state Eidelman "did not attempt to contact the school or obtain further information from the school. He did not seek to obtain other medical records for the boy. He did not refer the boy to a pediatrician, psychiatrist, or pediatric psychiatrist. Instead, after a 20- to 30-minute interview with the child and his father, [Eidelman] documented diagnosis for the boy as a 'probable combination of ADD/ADHD or bipolar.' "

Eidelman then documented the plan to "try cannabis in small amounts in cookies."

The documents say that the father followed that advice and felt that the cannabis-laced cookies were helping and he perceived no harmful effects. But when he asked the boy's school nurse to administer the cannabis cookie, she reported the matter to child protective services and legal authorities.

According to the documents, the father testified that the main reason he sought help from Eidelman was that the boy's teacher had told him "he needed to get the child medicated, or he would be excluded from school."

The documents further state that when asked what other diagnostic criteria Eidelman considered, besides ADHD and bipolar disorder, he answered that he "didn't really consider anything else, and when asked what was the differential diagnosis for 'behavior like this' he said at first that there wasn't one, but then said alternatives could be head trauma, and he could think of no other diagnoses that could account for the child's behavior."

When asked about potential risks to a child given small amounts of cannabis, Eidelman answered that "there's pretty much no risk," though he could cite no authority for that position. When asked where the American Academy of Pediatrics stands on giving cannabis to a child, according to the court documents, [Eidelman] did not know.

"I Could Use Your Help"

In a blog post on January 29, Eidelman writes to friends and patients that the judge who ordered the revocation, “ruled I had made the wrong diagnosis on a child to whom I issued the cannabis recommendation, and felt that was enough basis to revoke my license to protect the public.

"I believe I will win on appeal, for a long list of reasons. One main reason is that the child was given an updated version of the same diagnosis one-and-a-half years after our last visit. Even the Board's expert agreed that proves I got the diagnosis right.

"However, I could use your help. If you are my patient, or know patients of mine, you are invited to write letters to the Medical Board describing how I've helped you, maybe I've made diagnoses that other doctors missed, helped you in ways other doctors hadn't. These might be related specifically to cannabis, but other things are great too."

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