Cancer boy Neon Roberts should have radiotherapy for brain tumour against mother's wishes, rules judge

Sally Roberts feared the treatment would cause long-term harm but doctors said her son may not survive more than a few months without it

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The mother of seven-year-old cancer patient Neon Roberts has lost her High Court battle to stop her son receiving radiotherapy. Doctors had said that Neon, who had an emergency operation on a residual brain tumour on Wednesday, could die in months without the treatment. His father Ben, Ms Roberts' estranged husband, also supported the treatment.

Giving his verdict, Mr Justice Bodey said that, while he had “sympathy” for Ms Roberts, he was “worried her judgement has gone awry on the question of the seriousness of the threat [Neon] faces.”

Ms Roberts, 37, had asked for more time to seek “alternative” treatments, which had been described by the counsel for the NHS Trust treating Neon as “experimental” and “unproven”.

Mr Justice Bodey said that no evidence had been presented to support Ms Roberts' assertion that there were “thousands of children surviving cancer without radiotherapy.”

Radiotherapy can have a number of adverse long term side effects including mutism, infertility and IQ diminution. Ms Roberts told the court that she considered the treatment “outdated” and part of an “indoctrinated” medical “orthodoxy”.

But Mr Justice Bodey said that, based on expert evidence provided by a leading paedatric oncologist in court, he was convinced radiotherapy treatment combined with chemotherapy was “at present the best we have to deal with a malignant cancer”.

He accepted the submissions of doctors that “the balance of advantage and disadvantage tilts well in favour of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.”

While accepting that Neon might experience adverse side effects he said that “one cannot enjoy quality of life if one is not alive.”

Neon Roberts is being cared for at an undisclosed hospital. His father Ben Roberts, who remained at his bedside and did not appear in court yesterday,  was “relieved” at the judge's verdict, his solicitor Gwen Williams said.

Lucy Roberts, Neon's aunt said the boy was “chatty”, “bubbly” and “doing well”. He is likely to remain in hospital over Christmas, she said. He will begin preparations for radiotherapy treatment within the next few days.

Victoria Butler-Cole, counsel for the NHS Trust treating Neon said that the success rate of the treatment  for children in Neon's situation was 67 per cent. Without the delay to his receiving treatment, the success rate would have been 80 per cent.

Ms Roberts was denied leave to appeal by Mr Justice Bodey, but can still seek to take her case to the Court of Appeal. Her legal team did not comment on whether they would take such a step and Ms Roberts made no comment as she left court yesterday afternoon.

Her case attracted intense media attention  after she and her son disappeared for several days earlier this month. On Tuesday she sought to stop doctors operating on her son after a residual tumour was detected in his brain, following an initial operation to remove a tumour earlier this year. Mr Justice Bodey ruled that the second operation should ahead on Tuesday and the boy went into surgery on Wednesday, despite an eleventh hour appeal by his mother, which was turned down.

Ms Roberts, who is understood to have agreements with a national newspaper and a TV station to exclusively talk about the case, denied that media attention on the case was influencing her attitude to it.

She was asked by Mr Justice Bodey: “Is this underpinning your attitude to this case, that you have some level of tie-ups with the media?”

She replied that her son's welfare was “the only important thing here”.