A missing five year old boy with a tumor in his brain has been found at a hospital in Spain, and the boy’s parents have been arrested, though the charges are unclear. A two-day international manhunt for Ashya King ended Saturday when Ashya’s parents, 51-year-old Brett King and 45-year-old Naghemeh King, were identified and pulled over in a vehicle while traveling in Spain.
Against the wishes of doctors, the parents took the boy from Southampton General Hospital in Hampshire on Thursday, causing an international warrant for neglect to be issued by UK authorities. Officials said they were uncertain of the parent’s intentions, and concerned that Ashya would not receive the immediate and complex care that his condition required.
Hampshire constable Chris Shead, at a press conference, said: “There are no winners in this situation, but thankfully, we have found Ashya. Obviously we now need to speak to those parents to determine exactly what was the motivation behind them taking Ashya.”
Some media outlets are reporting that Brett and Naghemeh are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and have attempted to make a connection between their religious convictions and their actions in taking their son. Jehovah’s Witnesses accept all forms of medical treatment, and like any family, wish for and expect the best care possible.
Witnesses however do not deviate from various Bible commands to “abstain from blood;” they will not accept a blood transfusion, even if deemed medically critical to a patient.
A brochure published by Jehovah’s Witnesses and designed for those in the medical community explains their stand as a religious one first, while also extolling the health advantages of non-blood management.
From How Can Blood Save Your Life?
This overview may help you to understand the nonnegotiable religious stand that Jehovah’s Witnesses take. They highly value life, and they seek good medical care. But they are determined not to violate God’s standard, which has been consistent: Those who respect life as a gift from the Creator do not try to sustain life by taking in blood.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ long standing respect for the sacredness of blood has pushed the medical community to look at other non-blood alternatives, such as plasma expanders and other replacement fluids, hemodilution, electrocautery, intravenous iron dextran injections and others.
Reprinted on the JW.org web site with permission of the American Medical Association from The Journal of the American Medical Association:
Although formerly, many physicians and hospital officials viewed refusal of a transfusion as a legal problem and sought court authorization to proceed as they believed was medically advisable, recent medical literature reveals that a notable change in attitude is occurring. This may be a result of more surgical experience with patients having very low hemoglobin levels and may also reflect increased awareness of the legal principle of informed consent.
Now, large numbers of elective surgical and trauma cases involving both adult and minor Witnesses are being managed without blood transfusions.
Ashya’s parents have yet to say whether their actions were motivated by a refusal of the UK hospital staff to agree to a non-blood removal or treatment of the boy’s tumor, but media outlets and social media sites have been quick to wrongly issue condemnatory judgments based on their faith alone.
Authorities have now said their religion was “irrelevant” in the case, ITV News reported.
The frantic search for the boy, launched on Friday, came after police were concerned that Ashya’s condition would “deteriorate rapidly,” reported NBC News. Ashya had been receiving long term care at Southampton Hospital. He was in a wheelchair and was hooked up to a feeding machine.
Update: The BBC is now reporting that Brett King spoke about why they removed their boy, and said that their son’s tumor had already been removed; American media outlets had incorrectly reported that Ashya had yet to receive treatment and that his parents were fleeing authorities.
His father Brett King defended his actions in a 10-minute video posted on YouTube, added above, saying the family was looking at a treatment for Ashya that had not been offered in the UK. In the video, Mr. King said his son was doing well, indicated a machine used to feed him was operating normally and asked that the “ridiculous chase” to be called off.
According to the BBC, the Kings said they had been seeking proton beam radiotherapy for Ashya – a treatment that targets tumors directly – writing that the Kings did not want their son “pelted with radiation” in their boy’s post-operative follow-up.
“Proton beam is so much better for children with brain cancer,” King said in the video. Recent medical advancements indicate the same.
Proton beam therapy may be the next great leap forward in radiation oncology. Supporters say the technology allows physicians to treat a broad spectrum of cancers with few adverse effects, while more precisely targeting tumor cells with higher doses of radiation. Detractors say proton beam therapy is hugely expensive.
King said he and his wife “pleaded” with hospital staff to transfer or allow their son to be discharged, but that they refused, telling him the treatment would have “no benefit whatsoever.” Cancer Research UK says proton beam treatment is only available in the UK for certain eye conditions.
Southampton General Hospital has not responded to claims made in Brett King’s video.
King said at no time were they ever neglecting their child, and that Ashya was “responding so much better” than he did in the UK hospital. In fact, King said the medical staff in UK had issued an emergency injunction that prevented them from being in the same room with their son, and even told the parents to stop doing research on the type of particles that they planned to radiate Ashya with.
In Brett King’s video, recorded by their son Naveed, the distressed father says they are being “chased around” but just “want the best medical treatment,” and that police have actually prevented the family from fundraising efforts for the photon beam therapy. Along those lines, the video’s ‘About’ page says the following, as written by Naveed:
I give permission for all to use this video as long as the full video is shown or only if a link is given to this video. Only reason if people and companies twist stories for their benefit to make it sound better or more interesting to watch.
Just received word that hundreds of people wanted to send money to him, I think that’s okay, but if its not then I will remove it from the description.
For updates on Ashya, subscribe to Naveed King’s YouTube channel.