By: Buz Deliere | December 14, 2022
In a major breakthrough, the summer of 2020 marked the first time in Canada that permission was granted to utilize psilocybin therapeutically.
Saskatoon resident, Thomas Hartle, became the trailblazer when then-Minister of Health Patty Hajdu issued an exemption for him to use this hallucinogenic substance found in "magic mushrooms" for three treatments throughout the year.
Hartle, a 54-year-old man diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal colon cancer back in 2016, has found solace and comfort by taking psilocybin to help deal with the anxieties related to death.
Thomas Hartle's first psychedelic experience proved to be a life-altering moment, as he overcame his deepest fear: the thought of leaving his family and not being there to help them.
Thomas Hartle recently opened up to CBC News about a jaw-dropping epiphany he experienced after his first psychedelic trip. Reminiscing on the experience, Hartle revealed that before using psilocybin, trying to talk about leaving his family was impossible without an emotional breakdown.
Having already benefited from it three times that year, he had anticipated swift approval of the renewal—a wait that's now stalled and left him frustrated as time passes by with no response. Hartle has been in limbo for 440 days after applying to renew his medical exemption from Health Canada in October of 2021.
"It would be, I believe, less frustrating if I was able to get some kind of a response back. I've already answered all of the questions. I've already qualified. I've already jumped through all of the hoops." Hartle says in the interview.
Health Canada released a statement saying they are committed to ensuring that all people who need end-of-life care receive the best possible support available. They also believe there is still more research to be done on psilocybin treatments.
The statement also points out that "Currently, the best way for patients to access psilocybin is through participation in a clinical trial."
Psilocybin is being hailed as a major breakthrough in psychiatric therapy, with substantial research conducted at esteemed universities such as Johns Hopkins and the University of California lending credence to its potential for therapeutic aid.
Recent studies have indicated that psilocybin can reduce depression symptoms and assist patients who are struggling to confront difficult emotions under supervision from trained therapists.
Advocates argue that the case of Hartle has brought to light a consequential issue facing terminally ill individuals — they may not have access to psychedelic therapies which could potentially relieve end-of-life anxiety.
This raises questions about whether it is right for governments to dictate treatments prescribed by medical professionals for patients that are terminally ill.