Ashya King was a little boy aged 5 suffering from a serious form of brain cancer. He has been the subject of worldwide publicity for the past few weeks.
On Friday 5th September the Court gave permission in accordance with his parent’s wishes for Ashya to be taken for treatment in Prague, in the Czech Republic.
The rights and wrongs of all that has happened to Ashya in the last few weeks have been hotly debated in the media and elsewhere.
What the public may not know is that on the 24th July he underwent brain surgery for the complete removal of a tumor at the Southampton General Hospital. At that point a dispute arose between Ashya’s parents and the treating Doctors in Southampton as to the treatment to be administered to Ashya thereafter. Everyone agreed he required Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy. The disagreement arose as to the extent of the treatment and in particular the type of Radiotherapy to be administered.
The Hospital’s proposal was that Ashya should receive conventional Radiotherapy over a 6 week period.
Ashya’s parents were very unhappy with aspects of the treatment plan. In particular, they were concerned about the proposal that he should receive a conventional type of Radiotherapy which would encompass the whole of the brain and spine and be administered on a number of occasions over a period of 6 weeks.
They asked the Hospital to consider an alternative to conventional Radiotherapy called Proton Therapy. In medical terms this causes less radiation damage to other tissues and organs in the body but is not generally available in the UK. Proton Therapy is however widely available in a number of other countries and NHS England has authorised and funded the provision of the treatment to a number of English patients in foreign hospitals including patients referred by Southampton General Hospital. However, on this occasion there was no recommendation.
Nevertheless, Ashya’s parents pursued their enquiries and identified a facility in Prague who are able and willing to offer Proton Therapy to patients such as Ashya with Medulloblastomas. Suffice to say Ashya’s parents took the bull by the horns and having been permitted to take Ashya out of the ward around the Hospital precincts removed the boy from Hospital on the afternoon of the 28th August and travelled by road and ferry to France and then to Spain.
On the 29th August the Local Authority filed an application in the High Court seeking permission to make Ashya a Ward of Court and provide directions as to necessary medical treatment. On the basis of the evidence before the Judge he made an Order making Ashya a Ward of Court during his minority or until such time as the Order was varied and also ordered Ashya’s parents to take him immediately for medical treatment at the nearest Hospital forthwith. In addition he issued a European Arrest Warrant at the request of the Local Authority. The family was eventually tracked down in Spain and Ashya admitted to a local Hospital in Malaga. The parents appeared in Court on an extradition application and were remanded in custody. The matter came before the Court again on the 2nd September and the CPS informed the Court that they were now intending to apply for the discharge of the European Arrest Warrant and the Trust indicated that it would not oppose any outcome which permitted Ashya to go to Prague to receive Proton Therapy. The Court also expressed the view that it was in the interest of Ashya to be reunited with his parents as soon as possible.
Ashya’s parents were released and reunited with their Son. On the 3rd September it came to the Court’s attention that the Government was offering to fly out an Independent Expert to examine Ashya and make recommendations as to his future treatment. By the morning of the 5th September it seemed there was a good prospect that the parties would reach an agreement about treatment later that day. In addition, a private airplane would be made available to fly Ashya from Malaga to Prague if necessary with Nursing Staff.
The Judge having considered the evidence over the short space of time the matter was in the public media concluded there was no reason to stand in the way of the parents original proposals. He directed that upon his arrival at the University Hospital Motel, Prague the Wardship should be discharged. Shortly after entering Court on the last occasion he was notified that Ashya had been formerly admitted to Hospital in Prague.
The moral of the story is that if there had been more sensitivity at the outset the huge costs in legal fees and the additional expenses outlined would have been spared.
If you are reading this and find your family faced with Wardship proceedings, here at Ringrose Law we have practiotioners who have experience of Wardship proceedings. Contact one of our offices in Boston, Grantham, Lincoln, Sleaford, Spalding & Newark.
Alls well that ends well.