The parents of Ashya King, a British boy suffering from a brain tumor, say they smuggled their son out of the hospital where he was hospitalized in the UK, because it did not offer them the treatment they requested.
The family was found in Spain over the weekend. The parents, Brett and Naghemed King, are under arrest while the minor remains in a Malaga hospital under police custody.
Interpol had issued a European arrest warrant against the boy’s parents based on possible «negligence».
Ashya’s older brother, Naveed, explained in a video posted on YouTube that his parents read incredibly about Ashya’s illness and begged doctors at Southampton hospital in the UK to treat the boy with proton therapy, but the center only offered conventional radiotherapy.
The technology is only available in the UK for the treatment of eye cancer. However, doctors of patients with other tumors can apply to the NHS to finance treatment abroad.
The average cost of proton therapy per patient is $166,000, according to NHS estimates.
Unlike conventional radiation therapy, the therapy requested by Ashya’s parents uses proton beams instead of X-rays.
Protons can be more precisely directed towards a tumor and stop when they reach it. Therefore, they produce less damage to closed tissues and cause fewer side effects than X-ray therapy.
Matthew Crocker, neurosurgeon at the institution health of st georgein London, told the BBC that conventional radiotherapy produces «a wide range of side effects, partly because of the way the energy is distributed».
Crocker claims that proton therapy can be successful for tumors in the brain and central nervous system.
The National Health System noted that the treatment is «particularly suitable for specific cases of complex cancers in children.»
The only center currently offering proton therapy in the UK is the Clatterbridge Center in Wirral, England, which treats eye cancer.
Britain’s Department of Health said that after spending more than $400 million to build new treatment centers, the therapy will be offered to more patients in London and Manchester.
In order for a patient to be treated abroad, their specialist must present the individual case to a panel.
Since the program to finance proton therapy abroad began, the Health Service paid for the treatment of 412 patients, including 293 children, out of a total of 546 requests.
Families of patients who were not chosen have been faced with the need to raise funds on their own.
«The worst moment of my life»
Tracy Laycock recounted that the NHS suffered from the treatment for her son Morgan, who traveled to receive proton therapy in Oklahoma, United States, when he developed a facial tumor.
Laycock described the wait to find out if they would receive funding as «the worst moment of my life.»
«We almost didn’t get selected because Morgan was perceived to be too old. He could have been left out if a younger kid had come forward,» he said.
«We had already decided that if Morgan’s treatment was not approved we would sell everything to finance the therapy privately.»
When the Department of Health announced in 2012 the construction of two new centers for treatment with proton therapy, it said that there was «a clear need to develop these services in the country.»
The new centers are expected to be operational in 2018 and until then, the NHS will continue to spend around $50m a year to fund treatment in other countries, including Switzerland and the United States.