House Chairperson, today I dedicate my speech to my friend, Dr Krishna Nair, who passed away on Sunday. To Lulu Yash and Michaela, I want to say that the details of his death are not relevant. What is relevant is the legacy he left as a specialist in palliative care and the huge role he played as the Chairperson of the Chatsworth Hospice.
Every one of us sitting here in the Chamber today knows of at least one person who has had cancer and who either has passed on or is a cancer survivor. We know that cancer knows no prejudice, race, colour or creed and affects people of any gender and economic status. When the diagnosis of the big C is confirmed, it is usually accompanied by fear.
Cancer is indeed a formidable opponent. But it is a fact that 30% of cancers could be prevented. We welcome the regulations for the compulsory reporting on cancer cases because it is vital for treatment and planning. However, South Africa has yet to include cancer control in its health and development agendas.
Early detection means access to treatment which means a longer life. However, the Department of Health needs to do more; we can't depend on God- given. The SA National Cancer Registry has not been updated in eight years. The question to ask is: why? Is this sheer negligence? I challenge the Minister of Health to do something about it.
The social impact on a family where the diagnosis is positive is huge. Immediate options of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation accompanied by side effects of nausea and hair loss are usually par for the course. Although cancer is a prescribed minimum benefit, not all medical aids cover cancer treatment costs in full. We as Members of Parliament are fortunate that the Physical Activity Readiness Medical Examination, PARmed, has extended its cover to full cover including the use of biomedicals.
The role of the Cancer Association of South Africa, Cansa, cannot be emphasised more, neither can the role of a hospice ever be underplayed. They offer counselling on what the diagnosis means, offer support groups and teach the family how to do specialist care of wounds. We had a lesson on pharmacology just now and the issue of medical marijuana, there is no void in the knowledge of the plant and the effects of the active ingredients in it. Medical marijuana is not new and the medical community has been writing about it for ages.
In fact, in 1993 in South Africa, the government of the day amended the marijuana legislation to allow for it to be grown strictly for bona fide pharmaceutical purposes. Scientists working for the apartheid regime developed a drug using Dronabinol extracted from cannabis, and the tablets at that time cost R100 each.
When Adv Jenny Wild was charged for being in possession of a dagga plant, the patented drug was withdrawn from the South African market and the marketing company delisted. But this drug grown from South African cannabis is still available overseas but is out of the reach of the pocket of a South African suffering from terminal diseases.
Colleagues, instead of emphasising the side effects and the abuse of cannabis, we should be engaging on the beneficial effects of medical marijuana. And I hope this debate is the beginning of that conversation.
In conclusion, I wish my friend Mario strength and lots of love. Thank you. [Applause.]