Britain’s Ashya King put hospital in an ‘impossible position’: doctor
The case of Ashya King, whose parents removed him from a British hospital, put the health service in an “impossible position,” one of his doctors has said in comments released Friday.
King’s parents sparked an international manhunt when they removed the 5-year-old, who had a brain tumor, to take him to Prague to be treated with proton beam therapy, rather than the radiotherapy British doctors had prescribed.
A lawyer for the family said last month King had been cured, after Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) agreed to pay for the treatment in an unprecedented move that followed an outpouring of anger toward the hospital.
Peter Wilson, pediatric intensive care consultant at Southampton General Hospital where King was being treated, told broadcaster the BBC “It does put clinicians in an impossible position.”
“We now have to try to explain to families why one child ... is getting a form of treatment, why they can’t and they’ve got the same tumor.”
“That’s deeply unfair when the NHS is supposed to be about equal health care for all.”
Staff at the Southampton General Hospital told the BBC that King’s parents had put their son in danger by removing him and that the decision to call the police had been correct.
“The dangers to Ashya would be that the feed going into his stomach could go into his lungs and that could have very serious consequences ... He could die ... It just seemed ... so unsafe,” said Sister Mandy Frisby, who cared for the boy.
Brett and Naghemeh King were detained on an international arrest warrant last year, after British authorities suspected they were not acting in Ashya’s best interests.
After the couple spent four days in a Spanish jail while their son was kept in a Spanish hospital, a British court ruled they should be reunited with their son, and the family traveled to Prague.
The King family published YouTube videos defending their actions throughout the ordeal, which captured international attention.
“Through the use of media, through YouTube, they were showing a child who was being fed but nobody knew that they didn’t know how to feed him,” nursing staff member Kate Pye told the BBC.
“We were really glad he was safe, but actually, fundamentally, they put him at huge risk. And if you asked me again, ‘Would I phone the police?’ the answer would be yes every time.”
Wilson said that angry phone calls to the hospital had overloaded its switchboard and that callers had left “vitriolic messages.”
“The overwhelming sentiment was one of just an absolute outpouring of hatred,” Wilson said. “One of the letters said they wished my children got cancer and died.”
Supporters of proton beam therapy say it is more precise than conventional radiotherapy and targets only malignant cells, although scientific opinion is divided on whether it improves survival rates.
Iva Tatounova, director of strategy at the Proton Therapy Clinic, answers questions in a proton therapy treatment room where 5-year-old Ashya King was treated in Prague, Czech Republic, Monday, March 23.