Mother loses UK legal fight to stop son's cancer radiotherapy

LONDON Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:32pm IST

Mother Sally Roberts of seven year old cancer sufferer Neon, returns after a recess the High Court in London December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Mother Sally Roberts of seven year old cancer sufferer Neon, returns after a recess the High Court in London December 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) - A mother in Britain, who was so desperate to stop her cancer-stricken son having to undergo conventional medical treatment that she went into hiding with him, lost a court battle on Friday to prevent him receiving radiotherapy.

The case of Sally Roberts, 37, a New Zealander living in Brighton, southern England, and the plight of her seven-year-old son has made headlines in Britain.

Roberts wants to try alternative treatments first, including immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy for her son Neon. She has been told the boy needs treatment fast but fears the side-effects of conventional medicine.

Doctors treating the boy had warned that without radiotherapy he could die within three months

Judge David Bodey told the High Court in London the life-saving radiotherapy treatment could start against the mother's wishes, the Press Association reported.

"The mother has been through a terrible time. This sort of thing is every parent's nightmare," the judge said.

"But I am worried that her judgment has gone awry on the question of the seriousness of the threat which Neon faces."

The story of the sick blue-eyed blonde boy came to public attention earlier this month when Roberts prompted a nationwide police hunt by going into hiding with Neon for four days to stop him from undergoing the treatment.

The mother's relentless battle in court also cast a light on the dilemmas parents can face when dealing with the illness of a loved one, considering the short-term and long-term risks of a treatment and handling conflicting medical information available at the click of a mouse.

Roberts said in court she had researched on the Internet her son's condition - a fast-growing, high-grade brain tumour called medulloblastoma - and sought advice from specialists around the world because she did not trust British experts.

She feared radiotherapy would stunt the boy's growth, reduce his IQ, damage his thyroid and potentially leave him infertile.

Earlier this week, a judge ruled that Neon could undergo emergency surgery to remove a tumour which had resisted an initial operation in October, despite opposition from his mother, who found he appeared to be recovering after what she said was a "heartbreaking" stay in hospital.

"EXPERIMENTAL AND UNPROVEN"

Surgeons said Neon's operation on Wednesday had been successful but that radiotherapy was needed to ensure no residual tumour was left behind.

Neon's father Ben, who lives in London and is separated from Roberts, has sided with his son's doctors.

But his wife suggested exploring several alternative treatments, including immunotherapy, which mainly consists of stimulating the body's immune system to fight cancerous cells, and photodynamic therapy, which uses a photosensitizing agent and a source of light to kill malignant cells.

The hospital treating Neon slammed "experimental and unproven" methods which entered "unchartered territory". The hospital, which cannot be named, also questioned the credentials of some of the private specialists contacted by Roberts's team.

The court heard that at least one of these could not even correctly spell medulloblastoma.

Radiotherapy is used to prevent cancer from spreading or striking back after surgery but it can damage nerve tissue and healthy brain cells.

Long-term side effects tend to be more common in children, whose nervous systems are still developing. (Reporting by Natalie Huet; Editing by Sophie Hares)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Ebola Outbreak

REUTERS SHOWCASE

School Shooting

School Shooting

Two killed, four wounded in Washington state school shooting.  Full Article 

Mideast Crisis

Mideast Crisis

Kurds reject Erdogan report of deal with Syrian rebels to aid besieged Kobani.  Full Article 

Canada Shooting

Canada Shooting

Canada vows tougher laws as citizens worry in face of attacks.  Full Article 

"Unilateral Diktat"

"Unilateral Diktat"

Putin accuses United States of damaging world order.  Full Article 

Nuclear Threat

Nuclear Threat

U.S. general says he believes N. Korea can build nuclear warhead.  Full Article 

Hatchet Attack

Hatchet Attack

NYC police say hatchet attack by Islam convert was terrorism.  Full Article 

Bollywood World

Bollywood World

Read stories and reviews Bollywood films.  Full Coverage 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage