Ashya King, a five year old boy, was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumour, in July 2014. The tumour was successfully removed on 24 July 2014 at Southampton General Hospital. After surgery a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, in accordance with agreed international protocols, is needed to prevent the tumour from returning. For best results this treatment should start within four to six weeks of surgery.
With such treatment, Ashya’s chances of survival are very good (between 70- 80%).
During discussions, Ashya’s family indicated that they wished him to undergo proton radiotherapy instead of standard radiotherapy. This option was explored with the family and they were informed that in Ashya’s case there is likely to be no difference in survival between standard radiotherapy and proton radiotherapy and overall no proven significant benefit.
Therefore, the Trust considers there is no benefit to Ashya of proton radiotherapy over standard radiotherapy.
This view is supported by a national independent expert body.
Despite this, the Trust agreed with the family to refer Ashya for proton radiotherapy, as the family had indicated that they could fund it privately.
On 28 August 2014, during unsupervised leave on the Trust’s grounds, Ashya’s family chose to remove him without informing or seeking the consent of medical staff.
The Trust was concerned for Ashya’s safety for the following reasons:
Ashya was dependent on a nasogastric tube for food and his parents are not trained to use it
Although the food pump had been removed with Ashya, the power cord had been left behind on the ward. The feed pump does have a battery but it is only for occasional use.
If a nasogastric tube became displaced either accidentally or through vomiting there was a possibility that feed could enter the lungs with potentially fatal consequences.
Ashya has no gag reflex and the family are not trained to deal with the (potentially serious) complications of choking
Ashya developed a temperature the previous day and there were concerns that he may develop an infection
Ashya needed to start his chemotherapy within the week to ensure the best chances of complete recovery
The Trust contacted the police, in line with Trust policy, to alert them to the situation.
The Trust will offer any assistance that it can to ensure that Ashya receives urgent treatment at an appropriate hospital.
Posted on Tuesday 2 September 2014