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A reminder that we need better care for all

This article is over 7 years, 4 months old
Issue 2419

Any decent person will hope for the best for five year old cancer patient Ashya King and feel sympathy for the torment of his family.

But the case raised difficult issues. Parents Brett and Naghemeh King took Ashya from hospital in Southampton to Spain to get proton beam therapy (PBT) that had been denied by doctors.

They were arrested following an international police operation, jailed, and denied the right to visit their son.

The best solution is for patients to make their own choices. But for very young children that’s not possible. 

There will be occasions when parents’ wishes have to be overridden in the interests of their children. But PBT isn’t some cultish pseudo-treatment. It’s available on the NHS and is used when deemed suitable.

The doctors, it seems, simply assessed that it would not be as effective as other treatments.

None of us should rush to judgement on the best way to treat cancer. But two points are clear. Firstly, the parents should not have faced arrest, police chases and smears by the press.

Secondly we need a health service where everyone knows that decisions are made on the basis of need, not budget pressures and a search for profit. 

A well-funded NHS without privatisation is part of making awful dilemmas for parents, children and doctors easier to deal with.


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