Family Loses Custody of Son After Treating His Seizures With Marijuana

By Paul Gaita 06/04/18

The marijuana allowed the teenager to go 71 days without having a seizure.

a pensive family of 3

A teenaged Georgia resident who suffered from severe and debilitating seizures has been removed from his home by law enforcement after his parents attempted to treat his condition with marijuana.  

Suzeanna and Matthew Brill said that their 15-year-old son, David, did not find relief from prescription seizure medication or low-THC cannabis oil, and in desperation, offered him smokeable marijuana, which reportedly allowed him to go without seizures for 71 days.

But after police demanded that the couple stop the treatment, David was hospitalized and then placed in a group home by the Division of Family and Children Services. The Brills are currently facing charges of reckless conduct from the Twiggs County Sheriff's Office.

Possession of one ounce of marijuana in the state of Georgia is considered a misdemeanor and can result in up to one year in jail and/or a minimum fine of $1,000—except in the city of Atlanta, where it is decriminalized and carries a maximum fine of $75. Patients suffering from cancer, seizures, ALS and other conditions may qualify for medical marijuana oil, but it cannot be purchased in Georgia.

Several studies have found that cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which does not contain the psychoactive THC, may offer relief from seizures—but as the Brills claimed, David's condition—seizures that took place "every day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day," as his father, Matthew, noted, and often caused him to vomit while sleeping—was not treatable with CBD oil.

In fear for their son's life, the Brills gave him smokeable marijuana, which they claimed allowed him to go seizure-free for nearly three months. Matthew Brill said that they never forced David to smoke marijuana, instead telling him that it was his decision.

They said that they informed their doctors and a therapist about their treatment, which resulted in a visit from the police and demands to stop giving David marijuana. They complied, and as Suzeanne said, "Within 14 hours, we were rushing our son to the hospital. And it was one of the most horrific seizures I've ever seen."

David remained in the hospital for a week before being taken by Child Services to the group home; according to the New York Times, he has been there for 30 days and his seizures have returned. The Brills were arrested by the Twiggs Count Sheriff's Office and spent six days in jail.

They are currently working a variety of jobs and have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for a lawyer to regain custody of David, a process that could take up to a year. 

The Brills still face the reckless conduct charges, which could result in a prison sentence and loss of their son. But they don't regret their decision to treat him as they did.

"Had it not been for me and my husband, my son would probably have been long dead," said Suzeanne.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.