So what would you do if you were the parents of Ashya King?
Your son has a stage four aggressive brain tumour. His grandmother says doctors have told her there is nothing more they can do for him. Will your decision be rational? I’m not sure mine would be.
Wind forward and Ashya’s parents are in Spain, being treated as criminals; handcuffed and imprisoned away from the son they love, the son who cannot speak nor communicate, who can’t really do anything.
The Southampton hospital have apparently said that the family’s preferred treatment, something called ‘proton beam treatment’, would not make any difference, such is the gravity of Ashya’s condition.
For all we know, the doctors may be right and we know that Ashya’s father Brett has had disagreements before over his son’s treatment, but to treat the parents as criminals is, well, criminal.
I am not sure if we really know enough about the full story, what was said by whom, the nature and seriousness of Ashya’s condition and – here is a potential issue – the cost and value of ‘proton beam treatment.’ We do know that this treatment does not work with all cancers because cancer is a catch all word that covers a multitude of killer diseases. Whether the doctors have not revealed certain details due to patient confidentiality or fears of legal action, we do not know.
I wonder if you thought initially, as I did, that this could be another sad tale of Jehovah’s witnesses depriving their child of treatment on religious grounds but seeing they had already consented that Ashya have major brain surgery this could not be the case and I have been proved totally wrong. It seems to me that the parents of guilty of nothing more than love for their child and that should not be regarded as a crime. They should not be fugitives. They need help, support and maybe even counselling.
It’s horrible to watch and hear about because, it seems to me, we have a world of jobsworths. It’s more than everyone’s job’s worth to treat people as humans and individuals rather than ruthlessly follow procedure and criminalise decent people.
What the family did was to run away because they thought it might make things better, that they might somehow find better treatment, that their seriously ill child might recover.
I have the feeling that doctors probably do know better than a search on the internet about Ashya’s treatment and prognosis but something has gone horribly wrong, probably a strong support mechanism for families who are placed in this impossible position.
It can’t be about money because the police and now lawyers must be spending and costing a large fortune and in any case I for one could not care less what it costs if there is a chance of making this little boy better.
But Ashya’s parents, probably in desperation more than hope, have tried to do something to help him and however misguided they have been – and we don’t know that for sure – that’s all they have been guilty of.
The system of care, of support, has not worked and someone in power should, swiftly and firmly, act to protect not criminalise this family and if it turns out, as seems likely, that Ashya is not long for this earth, that they are not just left to their own devices. As a society we should be better than that.