Ashya King: Parents due in court in Madrid over removal of son with brain cancer from hospital
Mr King posted a YouTube video on Saturday evening explaining they were hoping to get their son treated with proton beam radiotherapy
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Monday 01 September 2014
The parents of a five-year-old boy with brain cancer who took their son out of hospital without doctors’ consent are expected to appear in court in Madrid today, after their disappearance raised questions about the availability of some cancer treatments on the NHS.
British police arrived in Spain yesterday to question the parents of Ashya King, who was removed from Southampton General Hospital on Thursday.
Brett King, 51, and Naghemeh King, 45, were arrested in Velez-Malaga on Saturday evening by Spanish police acting on a European arrest warrant. They were spoken to by a Spanish judge last night ahead of the court appearance today, when a decision on whether the couple will face further legal proceedings is expected to be taken.
The couple’s arrest followed an international search ordered by Hampshire police. Mr King posted a YouTube video on Saturday evening explaining they were hoping to get their son treated with proton beam radiotherapy.
The treatment targets tumours directly and is sometimes recommended for treating children but typically costs more than £100,000. The family said they had planned to go to the Czech Republic, where it is available.
Proton beam radiotherapy is only available in one hospital in Britain, Clatterbridge Centre for Cancer NHS Foundation Trust in the Wirral, where it is used to treat rare eye cancers. But the NHS is expanding its use to hospitals in London and Manchester and until then it does fund some patients to receive the treatment in other countries, including Switzerland and the US.
The King family are Jehovah’s Witnesses and speculation that they had taken their son out of hospital because they did not agree with an operation added to press condemnation over the weekend.
Mr King and his wife travelled on a ferry to France with Ashya and his six siblings on Thursday before heading south to Spain. Ashya is now being treated in a low dependency unit in hospital in Malaga.
Ashya was receiving treatment for a brain tumour
Mr King said his son’s treatment in Southampton seemed like “trial and error”. He said: “Proton beam is so much better for children with brain cancer. It zones in on the area, whereby normal radiation passes right through his head and comes out the other side and destroys everything in his head.
“We pleaded with them for proton beam treatment. They looked at me straight in the face and said with his cancer – which is called medulloblastoma – it would have no benefit whatsoever. I went straight back to my room and looked it up and the American sites and French and Switzerland sites where they have proton beam said the opposite, it would be very beneficial for him.”
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said it had offered Ashya’s family a second opinion on treatment and offered to help with organising care abroad.
A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “We all want what is best for Ashya, and it is for the cancer doctors and oncologists involved to advise on what is the best treatment for each child. Where doctors recommend it, the NHS does fund proton beam therapy, including supporting 99 children last year to travel abroad for treatment.”
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