Accused drug dealer tells court he wanted to fix sick kids
By SAM McKeith
FORMER doctor Andrew Katelaris "genuinely believed" it was necessary to treat ill children with cannabis to help them avoid death or serious injury, a court has heard.
Mr Katelaris, 63, is accused of manufacturing and supplying a large commercial quantity of cannabis and dealing with the proceeds of crime after police raided a Sydney home in 2017.
He is defending himself at a jury trial in the NSW District Court in Sydney.
He has based his defence on the basis of medical necessity.
Giving evidence on Tuesday, Mr Katelaris said one of the specific questions he needed to address was whether he acted in order "to avoid death or serious injury".
"That is a genuinely held belief on my part," he told the court.
"That act that I did was certainly to avoid death or serious injury to the afflicted children.
"This isn't a theoretical issue that we're dealing with, it's a real issue of life and death."
He said treatment with medical cannabis provided "miraculous transformation" in children with no other therapeutic option who were in "imminent peril".
He referred to children with epilepsy suffering strokes and other "adverse outcomes" such as "Todd's paralysis".
"It's a very, very distressing thing to see," he said.
The court heard that Mr Katelaris intended to use the material allegedly uncovered by police to continue treating a "cohort of patients".
It was told that Mr Katelaris had a list of patients under "active management" who had been receiving treatment since 2014.
The former medical doctor described himself as a "leading authority" in treating children with epilepsy, who had "scientific knowledge" and a "big heart", rather than being a "hippie-type" person.
The trial has previously heard that a police raid of an alleged lab operated by Mr Katelaris unearthed 8kg of cannabis oil and 10kg of cannabis leaf in addition to $10,000 cash.
It has also been told that Mr Katelaris could face life in prison if found guilty.
On Monday, the court was shown a documentary from the mid-1990s featuring Mr Katelaris that described marijuana as a potential "billion-dollar crop" that had been "demonised".
The trial continues before Judge Clive Jeffreys.