Neon Roberts: brain tumour boy must have surgery, rules High Court
Neon Roberts, the boy at the centre of a legal row over life-saving cancer treatment, must have more surgery to remove a brain tumour despite his mother's objections, the High Court ruled yesterday.
Neon Roberts will today have the operation to remove the half–inch tumour after doctors warned that he would die imminently without the surgery.
Mr Justice Bodey overruled objections from Neon’s mother Sally, 37, who argued there was not enough evidence to support the risky surgery amid fears he might be left mute.
While admitting that "no one could fail to sympathise" with Mrs Roberts and Neon's father, Ben, 34, the judge backed evidence from medical experts, who had warned surgery needed to be completed "extremely urgently".
Doctors did not have the "luxury of time" now, as the case’s numerous delays meant Neon now faced growing risks to his health, he told the court.
The group of doctors treating the "vibrant boy" at an unidentified hospital had warned the little boy would die within three months if treatment was abandoned.
When we reported on this heartbreaking story last week, a judgement had been delayed after scans revealed that Neon Roberts’ brain cancer (medulloblastoma) may have returned following a first round of surgery in October this year. The judge has decreed that Neon must have surgery, "In his best interests", a position his mother agreed with until the eleventh hour. It appears that she is unconvinced that his scan anomaly is cancer, and that the judge refused permission for her to obtain medical opinions from outside the UK.
Mrs Roberts is being implicitly blamed for her son’s condition by both the hospital trust and paediatric oncologist ‘Dr A’, who gave evidence at the Family Court hearing. We think it’s highly likely that, if Neon’s cancer has recurred, it’s strongly linked to the appalling emotional pressure the little boy has been under in recent months, rather than any lack of radiotherapy.
The team of doctors treating Neon all agreed that surgery was needed, according to the Telegraph article. We wonder, however, whether they ever provided Mrs Roberts with any evidence supporting this view, after her request for similar evidence in favour of radiotherapy was met with a single paper from the 1940s.
If you’re wondering why Mrs Roberts was even considering going abroad for medical opinions, the answer lies in the UK’s repressive cancer environment. Doctors are pursued and struck off by the General Medical Council (GMC) if they practice non-orthodox methods of cancer care, and increasingly treatment guidance of the sort provided by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is elevated to the level of a binding rulebook. Under such a fear-based atmosphere, it’s not surprising that Mrs Roberts feels that, "Doctors [in the UK] do not speak against each other"; they’re all terrified of a GMC kangaroo court or of not being sufficiently ‘evidence based’. Doctors who look beyond narrow official guidelines face less professional censure abroad, and hence are likely to provide a more independent view.
On a more positive note, we learn from an extremely well-placed source that Mrs Roberts and her solicitor, Imran Khan, have appealed the judge’s decision. A hearing is set for tomorrow, Friday 20th December, although it’s unclear whether this will have any effect on Neon’s surgery, which was scheduled for Wednesday 18th. Please join us in sending Neon your love and best wishes.