On April 7th, 2020, Charlotte Figi, 13, died of coronavirus-related complications. She was the icon child of the cannabis revolution in the United States of America and beyond. Charlotte’s death was announced by a family friend on the Facebook page of Paige Figi, Charlotte’s mother. “Charlotte is no longer suffering. “She is seizure-free forever. Thank you all for your love,” the post reads.
In an update shared on her social media, Mrs. Figi made it clear that all her family had been sick for almost a month, but their symptoms did not meet all the criteria for the COVID-19 test. For this reason, the family was told to treat the symptoms at home unless they got worse. But Charlotte’s symptoms got worse. She was hospitalized on April 3rd. However, she tested negative for the coronavirus and was discharged on April 5, after some signs of improvement. On the early morning of April 7, Charlotte had an epileptic seizure that resulted in respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. Although she had previously tested negative, doctors treated her symptoms as a COVID-19 case.
Charlotte Figi had Dravet’s syndrome, a rare and debilitating form of epilepsy that appears from the first year of life of the person affected. Charlotte had been suffering from it since she was 3 months old. She suffered from several seizures of epilepsy a day. Charlotte’s mother, Paige, had previously heard of a parent using cannabis oil to calm her child’s convulsions. So, in 2011, she came into contact with a cannabis producer, Joel Stanley, who, together with his siblings, developed a cannabis strain with a high CBD content and without the presence of THC. The name given to this cannabis variety was inspired by the name of the girl: Charlotte’s Web (THC: <1% – CBD: 11%-13%).
Charlotte’s seizures were drastically reduced by using CBD oil extracted from the cannabis variety Charlotte’s Web. The girl resumed walking, playing and feeding herself.
Charlotte’s story had a remarkable impact throughout the United States and beyond. Numerous documentaries have been dedicated to her that have had such a media impact that the use of cannabis in medicine has been completely re-evaluated. Since 2012, several US states have legalized cannabis for both recreational and medical use, and hemp with a THC level of less than 1% has been federally legalized. The scientific evidence of the benefits of CBD on certain diseases, such as Charlotte’s, has triggered a rush to study more and more CBD for medical use. Evidence of the success of CBD on Charlotte has been an inspiration to thousands of families around the world who have children suffering from epileptic fits of varying intensity. In a better world, none of us would have come to know Charlotte and her story for the reasons we did. However, the legacy she leaves is that of a change-maker and of a trail-blazer in the fight for patients’ dignity, for their quality of life and their freedom to pursue, in the face of any social prejudice, a therapy that benefits their well-being.