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Medical Cannabis & the Issue of Reasonable Treatment Expenses

Injured workers pursuing compensation under the NSW Compensation Scheme have an entitlement that an Insurer will pay for the injured workers reasonably necessary medical expenses under Section 60 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW).

The issue of reasonableness of such treatment under Section 60 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW) is not a new one and the Personal Injury Commission has and continues to deal with the question of reasonableness when it comes to the extent that treatment is reasonable under the Act and should be payable to injured workers.

The Emergence of Medical Cannabis

The emergence of new and different treatment regimens has evolved over time and the Personal Injury Commission continues to consider in its decisions, all forms of treatment to which injury workers are seeking funding for, to help manage their injuries. One of those emerging areas of treatment is the prescription of medical cannabis, which can not only assist with chronic and severe pain but also psychological symptomology.

The Case of French – v – Hardwood Slip Way Pty Limited

The Personal Injury Commission recently dealt with the issue of medical cannabis and whether it constituted reasonable treatment under Section 60 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW) on 25 August 2022 in the matter of French – v – Hardwood Slip Way Pty Limited and others [2022] NSW PIC 473.

Section 60 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW) essentially reads as follows:

If, as a result of an injury received by a worker, it is reasonably necessary that –

Any medical or related treatment (other than domestic assistance) be given or,

Any hospital treatment be given, or

Any ambulance services be provided, or

Any workplace rehabilitation service be provided;

The worker’s employer is liable to pay, in addition to any other compensation under this act, the cost of that treatment of service and the related travel expenses specified in subsection (2).

The Commission’s Decision

In French – v – Hardwood Slip Way Pty Limited, the Personal Injury Commission confirmed that medical cannabis was reasonably necessary treatment in the case.

Key Points

The Claim

Mr French was working for the Respondent, Hardwood Slipway Pty Limited as an apprentice boat builder and on 20 July 2019 he injured his back in the course of his employment.

The claim was accepted, and he received weekly compensation and lump sum entitlements.

The request

In 2020 Mr French’s treating doctor prescribed him medical cannabis to treat his ongoing back symptomology and the insurance company declined liability for medical cannabis sighting it was unreasonable.

The proceedings

In the proceedings before the Commission, Mr French provided medical evidence indicating that his back pain had been chronic and severe since his date of injury. He indicated in his statement that medical cannabis eased his back pain as well as helped his secondary depression and anxiety which stemmed from his chronic pain. He indicated that the use of medical cannabis was more effective than the other medications and treatment options he had tried in the past and had no negative side effects.

The Respondent Insurer submitted that the medical cannabis did not meet the criteria of “reasonably necessary” quoting the authorities of Honarvar – v – Professional Painting Au Pty Limited [2022] NSW PIC PD 12 and Rose – v – Health Commission [2014] as well as the faculty of pain medicine of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. In such a report, to which they relied, it indicated that it was too little medical literature on the effectiveness of medical cannabis as well as the long-term impacts of pain management for it to be consider reasonable.

The decision

Member Gaius in his decision on behalf of the Commission, indicated that his preference was for the evidence provided by the worker, namely his statement evidence which indicated, and which was consistent with the qualified Doctor’s opinion that medical cannabis had significantly aided his back symptoms. The Member further indicated that the Insurer’s independent medical examiner had ignored the therapeutic benefit that the drug has had on the worker with regard to a reduction in pain and his secondary psychological symptoms.

In this case the Commission found that medical cannabis was reasonably necessary to treat pain, in the situation where it was obtained by way of a prescription obtained through the therapeutic goods administration, and in such cases the Insurer had an obligation to fund such a reasonable expense.

Conclusion

Essentially, the reasonable necessity of prescription of medical cannabis remains very much a case-by-case determination and will depend on several factors as to whether it is suitable and appropriate form of treatment for the injured worker.

If you are having a current dispute with a workers compensation Insurer regarding the reasonableness of treatment, contact Garling and Co today.  Every lawyer at Garling and Co is an Accredited Specialist in Personal injury Law.   We can help support your claim and ensure you receive the medical treatment you are entitled to.

Professional woman typing on laptop at work.

Emma Perkins

Joining Garling and Co in 2019, Emma brings to the team a deep knowledge and understanding of Personal Injury Law. Since her admission in 2009, she has specialised in the fields of workers' compensation, victims' compensation, public liability, motor...
Kimberly B.
23:14 14 Feb 24
Mathew is very knowledgable and has been of great assistance to me. All the staff are friendly and helpful. I'm so happy I found this firm.Thank you Mathew and team for your great work in my case.... I am 100% happy with what you achieved for me.read more
Julie M.
10:16 16 Jan 24
My last stage of Workers compensation claim was managed by Emma Perkins, Natasha Stojanovic, Rebecca Dunshea and Kelli Robinson at Garling and Co. Lawyers who went the extra mile with their service... from the beginning to the end of 3 years of my case. I have become very anxious with almost everything after a workplace injury and a lot of times I probably ask more questions than I need to, but Emma Perkins always finds clear answers to my questions in a short time and explains to me patiently even using her mealtime or between her meeting and make me feel that I have been very well take care and supported. I am so grateful and extremely satisfied. The excellent service, attitude, and culture of Metthew Garling and his team are second to none with a very high success rate. If you going to battle with your workplace injury for a short or long period, you are better off with Garling and Co. lawyers who are able back you up every step of the way. I strongly recommend it to anybody who needs their service like me. Julieread more
patrick P.
01:46 19 Dec 23
I like to say that I had a very wonderful experience,And the support, and also understanding with all my requests,I could not ask for a better team!Thank you Emma and also her assistant Rebecca... thank youread more
Kazi H.
13:38 13 Dec 23
Work cover fund is GOVT’S money but insurer think that it is from their 14th generation. So only they can have it. Not only that, people from the work, IME doctor from insurer, back to work... coordinator from work, Rehab provider from any side push the worker as hard as possible that the worker (doesn’t matter how the workers mental or psychical condition) either go back to his pre injury duty or leave the job.More over on that very bumpy any difficult journey some of them only treat the worker as a MONEY MAKING MECHINE .in some point worker feels like, no rooms to breath. On that moment need someone to support legally, someone to care, someone to relive.On my case I believe that, somehow, I manage to make my God happy. That’s why God sends me to Matthew Gerling and his team Allison, Rebecca and Nathan, and all of GARLING & co Lawyers.I am not good enough in English, can’t express my gratitude.Matthew, Allison, Rebecca and Nathan, please accept my appreciation and pass it to others.read more
Carol L.
01:32 29 Nov 23
Professional, understanding and friendly
Sean G.
23:21 14 Nov 23
Matthew Garling and everyone I spoke to at Garling and Co were kind, caring and compassionate. They were sensitive to my psychological condition and were patient in explaining everything to me, so... that I clearly understood the legal process. I am exceptionally grateful for the settlement outcome that Garling and Co obtained for me. Many thanks.read more
waqas A.
08:33 13 Nov 23
Great Experience with Garling & Co. Matthew explained everything in detail during the first appointment. Allison, Nathan, Rebecca and the staff have been extremely helpful. Thank You to the team and... lawyers at Garling & Co. for making the long process easy for me and getting an excellent outcome for my compensation claim.I would highly recommend Garling & Co. Lawyersread more
Saskia L.
21:42 08 Nov 23
The world of workers compensation is long, hard and confusing, but Emma and Rebecca at Garling & Co always treated my case with kindness, respect and understanding. No question was ever silly and... they always had time to make sure I knew what would happen next and how we could best prepare. I am so thankful for their expertise and could not have chosen anyone better to represent me.read more
Antonio P.
08:46 06 Nov 23
Thank you Matthew and his team for taking care of my case couldn’t ask for a better results and couldn’t have better team to do that thank you
Julie M.
00:40 06 Nov 23
Garlic & Co Lawyers have been wonderful, supporting me through some difficult times. With their assistance, positive outcomes were achieved. Many thanks to the Team.Julie
READ ALL TESTIMONIALS

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Kimberly B.
23:14 14 Feb 24
Mathew is very knowledgable and has been of great assistance to me. All the staff are friendly and helpful. I'm so happy I found this firm.Thank you Mathew and team for your great work in my case.... I am 100% happy with what you achieved for me.read more
Julie M.
10:16 16 Jan 24
My last stage of Workers compensation claim was managed by Emma Perkins, Natasha Stojanovic, Rebecca Dunshea and Kelli Robinson at Garling and Co. Lawyers who went the extra mile with their service... from the beginning to the end of 3 years of my case. I have become very anxious with almost everything after a workplace injury and a lot of times I probably ask more questions than I need to, but Emma Perkins always finds clear answers to my questions in a short time and explains to me patiently even using her mealtime or between her meeting and make me feel that I have been very well take care and supported. I am so grateful and extremely satisfied. The excellent service, attitude, and culture of Metthew Garling and his team are second to none with a very high success rate. If you going to battle with your workplace injury for a short or long period, you are better off with Garling and Co. lawyers who are able back you up every step of the way. I strongly recommend it to anybody who needs their service like me. Julieread more
patrick P.
01:46 19 Dec 23
I like to say that I had a very wonderful experience,And the support, and also understanding with all my requests,I could not ask for a better team!Thank you Emma and also her assistant Rebecca... thank youread more
Kazi H.
13:38 13 Dec 23
Work cover fund is GOVT’S money but insurer think that it is from their 14th generation. So only they can have it. Not only that, people from the work, IME doctor from insurer, back to work... coordinator from work, Rehab provider from any side push the worker as hard as possible that the worker (doesn’t matter how the workers mental or psychical condition) either go back to his pre injury duty or leave the job.More over on that very bumpy any difficult journey some of them only treat the worker as a MONEY MAKING MECHINE .in some point worker feels like, no rooms to breath. On that moment need someone to support legally, someone to care, someone to relive.On my case I believe that, somehow, I manage to make my God happy. That’s why God sends me to Matthew Gerling and his team Allison, Rebecca and Nathan, and all of GARLING & co Lawyers.I am not good enough in English, can’t express my gratitude.Matthew, Allison, Rebecca and Nathan, please accept my appreciation and pass it to others.read more
Carol L.
01:32 29 Nov 23
Professional, understanding and friendly
Sean G.
23:21 14 Nov 23
Matthew Garling and everyone I spoke to at Garling and Co were kind, caring and compassionate. They were sensitive to my psychological condition and were patient in explaining everything to me, so... that I clearly understood the legal process. I am exceptionally grateful for the settlement outcome that Garling and Co obtained for me. Many thanks.read more
waqas A.
08:33 13 Nov 23
Great Experience with Garling & Co. Matthew explained everything in detail during the first appointment. Allison, Nathan, Rebecca and the staff have been extremely helpful. Thank You to the team and... lawyers at Garling & Co. for making the long process easy for me and getting an excellent outcome for my compensation claim.I would highly recommend Garling & Co. Lawyersread more
Saskia L.
21:42 08 Nov 23
The world of workers compensation is long, hard and confusing, but Emma and Rebecca at Garling & Co always treated my case with kindness, respect and understanding. No question was ever silly and... they always had time to make sure I knew what would happen next and how we could best prepare. I am so thankful for their expertise and could not have chosen anyone better to represent me.read more
Antonio P.
08:46 06 Nov 23
Thank you Matthew and his team for taking care of my case couldn’t ask for a better results and couldn’t have better team to do that thank you
Julie M.
00:40 06 Nov 23
Garlic & Co Lawyers have been wonderful, supporting me through some difficult times. With their assistance, positive outcomes were achieved. Many thanks to the Team.Julie
University of Technology, Sydney
Member of Law Society of New South Wales
Law Society of NSW Specialist Accreditation
University of Sydney
Legal Profession Admission Board of New South Wales
The law society of nsw professional standards scheme logo.
University of Technology, Sydney
Member of Law Society of New South Wales
Law Society of NSW Specialist Accreditation
University of Sydney
Legal Profession Admission Board of New South Wales
The law society of nsw professional standards scheme logo.
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