Ashya: Radiologist convinced father
The father of Ashya King has revealed he was convinced to seek help for the five-year-old in the Czech Republic after an NHS radiologist told him proton beam therapy was "superior" to conventional treatment.
Brett King and his wife Naghmeh sparked an international police hunt when they removed their son from Southampton General Hospital on August 28 without medical consent and took him to Prague to receive proton therapy on brain cancer.
Mr King, 51, has previously spoken out about a threat by doctors to take Ashya into care if they refused to accept conventional radiotherapy, a claim the hospital has denied, and in an interview in the Daily Mail today he revealed it was a consultation with an NHS radiologist that convinced him they had to leave.
"I said: 'If you had a five-year-old boy who had a Grade 4 (the most aggressive grade) brain tumour and you loved that son, what would you choose - proton or normal radiotherapy?" Mr King told the paper.
"He paused and scratched his head. I could see 1,000 things going through his mind. He said, 'It's not that easy'. I told him he'd answered my question. He then told me that it was all about funding and that the proton panel would never approve it.
"Then he said, 'If you're asking me about quality of life, proton is superior. With radiotherapy, your son will get secondary tumours, have hearing problems, growth problems and special needs for the rest of his life. Children pay a heavy price for survival under normal radiotherapy'."
Once it was discovered the Kings had fled with Ashya, an international arrest warrant was issued and the parents faced a protracted legal battle to get him to the Proton Therapy Centre (PTC), with a High Court judge only approving the move after they had been released from police custody in Spain.
The PTC has said proton therapy is more effective than radiotherapy as it limits the collateral damage of radiation to other vital organs, such as the heart and liver in Ashya's case. This would lead to less severe long-term side-effects including heart and breathing problems.
The NHS has since agreed to fund Ashya's treatment, news which Mr King told the Mail came as a "weight lifted".
A spokesman for NHS England said: "Now that Ashya is in Prague, it is clearly best that Ashya continues to be treated uninterrupted so the NHS has agreed to fund this care, as requested by his parents, in accordance with relevant European cross-border arrangements."