Belfast Telegraph

Dad of tragic Oscar Knox backs Ashya King family's right to seek specialist treatment

By Alex Diaz and David Mercer

The father of Oscar Knox has said he would have done the same as a couple who removed their five-year-old son from hospital without doctors' consent.

Stephen Knox – whose inspiring little boy died after a long battle against a rare form of cancer – took to Twitter to back the parents of Ashya King, who are seeking specialist treatment for the boy abroad.

Ashya's family took him from Southampton General Hospital on Thursday afternoon and travelled on a ferry to France with him.

The boy, who has brain cancer, and his family then headed south to the Costa del Sol in southern Spain.

Brett King (51) and Naghmeh King (45), both Jehovah's Witnesses, were arrested at 10pm on Saturday in Velez-Malaga by Spanish police.

Hampshire police have defended their decision to request a European arrest warrant for the Kings on suspicion of neglect after they decided to leave the country with Ashya to seek a form of treatment that is not available on the NHS.

In a video blog posted on YouTube, Mr King said he had pleaded for proton beam therapy to be used to treat his son but had been told that it would be no benefit for the medulloblastoma Ashya is suffering.

He also claimed his son's treatment in Southampton seemed like "trial and error", but was told that if he questioned it the hospital would seek an emergency protection order.

Yesterday, Stephen and Leona Knox from Mallusk took to Twitter to lend their support to the Kings.

Their five-year-old son Oscar's battle for health touched the hearts of tens of thousands of people across Northern Ireland and further afield after he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma in 2011.

'Wee Oscar' received specialist treatment in America in 2012, and was given the all-clear in April 2013. Sadly, the disease returned in August that year and he died in May.

At the weekend, Mrs Knox wrote on Twitter: "Expect abuse for this but my heart absolutely bleeds for little Ashya King and his family. Parents, not criminals."

Mr Knox described the arrests as "so, so wrong".

"Doctors threatening to take parents powers away is unthinkable. In same situation I think we'd have done the same," he said.

British police are thought to have questioned the Kings yesterday before a Spanish judge opens extradition proceedings against them.

The couple are being held in custody and officers have a maximum of 72 hours to question them before handing the matter over to the court.

Yesterday, Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead, of Hampshire Constabulary, said he was aware the police's approach had created a "significant amount of debate".

He said: "We had medical experts telling us that Ashya was in grave danger. Medical experts were saying to us that if he didn't get the care that he needed, there was a potential threat to his life.

"Faced with those circumstances, I make no apology for the police being as proactive as we possibly can to actually find Ashya and ensure that he gets the help he needed.

"I would much sooner be standing here facing criticism for being proactive than to stand here and face criticism for doing nothing and then potentially having to explain why a child has lost his life."

Story so far

Ashya, who had received surgery for a stage four brain tumour before travelling to Spain, is thought to be in a stable condition and is being treated at the Materno-Infantil hospital in Malaga.

The family is believed to have travelled there with the intention of selling their holiday home to finance proton beam treatment for Ashya in the Czech Republic.

Proton beam treatment is a form of radiotherapy. Unlike conventional X-rays, proton rays are capable of being targeted very precisely and don't pass through tissue, making the treatment particularly suited to children.

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