Parents arrested over son's cancer treatment


CBS News:

Parents arrested over son’s cancer treatment

LONDON – The story of a desperately sick child and – it seems – desperate parents wanting to do whatever they can for him, has gripped the British public and fueled a debate over who gets the final say when it comes to matters of life and death.What everyone does seem to agree on, reports CBS News’ Mark Phillips, is that the whole thing has been very badly handled.
The question is whether a family is doing what’s best for their child – against their British doctors’ orders, or what’s worst.

The King family took five-year-old Ashya out of an English hospital late last week because they wanted a different treatment for his brain tumor than doctors were willing to provide.
The response from British authorities was to issue an international arrest warrant for Brett King and his wife Naghmeh, who were by then driving their son to their vacation home in southern Spain. Police made it sound like a kidnapping.

“Ashya is in a wheelchair, and is fed from a tube. The feeding system is battery operated, and that battery will run out today,” warned assistant police chief constable Chris Shead, in Hampshire, England.

But it turned out the danger was overstated. Ashya was soon seen with his feeding system plugged in and in the company of his family, who defended their actions.
“So I just please ask, call off this ridiculous chase. We are not neglecting our son, he’s in perfectly good health,” said the father in a video posted to Youtube. “We were most disturbed today to find that his face is all over the internet and newspapers, and we’ve been labeled as kidnappers, putting his life at risk, neglect.”

“There’s been a lot of talk about this machine,” he said pointing to the feeding system. “As you see, it’s all plugged in, we’ve got loads of these feeds here.”
The family want Ashya to be given proton beam radiotherapy, which U.K. hospitals don’t always use for the kind of cancer he has.

Proton beam therapy is more targeted than traditional radiotherapy, damaging fewer cells surrounding the cancerous mass in a patient. Britain’s state health care system has only approved proton beam therapy for cancers of the eye. Hospitals in the U.S. and elsewhere use the treatment on brain and other cancers.
Instead, the parents were hauled up before a Spanish judge and jailed while the court mulled whether they should all be extradited back to Britain – while Ashya was stuck in a Spanish hospital.
Even Britain’s deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, wonders whether the heavy hand of police action was what this case really needed.

It’s not like the parents are haling the kid off for some quack homeopathic cure or refusing medical treatment one religious grounds in which cases the State might intervene. This is straight, “we know better than you”. Maybe, But talk about overreaction.


Wow. This is incredibly sad. It sounds to me like the British justice system severely overreacted.


Sounds very controlling; do it our way or else…we’ll make your life a living hell.


Is it illegal to change doctors or to seek a second opinion? I hope this is not where we are headed.


The immediate situation has been resolved, with the family receiving permission to get treatment in Prague. In addition, a review of the how British authorities handled the situation has been ordered. The results of the review are to be made public.

Whether the treatment in Prague will help, I don’t know. The lead pediatrician at the British hospital where Ashya had been treated disputes much of what has been reported in the news:

Dr Peter Wilson, lead paediatrician at Southampton general hospital, said that the boy had wrongly been described as “dying” or “terminally ill” in the media.

Southampton’s doctors had done everything possible to help the boy, he said, because he has a good chance of survival, but needs radiotherapy within six weeks of surgery – and it is now six weeks since he had an operation.

“Where we have been really misrepresented by the press and the family is where people have talked about a dying child,” Wilson said. “Ashya is sick because of the surgery he has had. He has a 70%-80% chance of survival. For every week we do not treat him from this week, his chances of survival decrease.”

The Prague facility is expediting its procedures so that Ashya can be begin treatment in a few days. Normally this sort of treatment requires two weeks of preparation.


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