SALLY ROBERTS: WERE THE COURTS RIGHT TO ORDER TREATMENT OF HER SON NEON? – Your child is sick and after going to the doctor, you are given a prescription that you obediently take to your local pharmacist and have filled. After getting home, you read the cautions and warning information included with the medicine and see that an itchy rash and vomiting are possible side effects along with sleepiness, coma and death. Now you need to decide if the cure is really better than the sickness it is meant to treat.
This is exactly the same situation that Sally Roberts, a UK mom, found herself in recently. Her 7 yr old son, Neon, has been diagnosed with Pediatric Medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor found in children. Current medical treatment includes surgery to remove all or as much of the tumor as possible, followed by an aggressive course of craniospinal radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Although the surgery itself is not without risks, it is the follow-up treatments along with their dangerous and residual side-effects that caused her to question whether this was the right way to treat her son.
The surgery and after-treatment have a 67% cure rate, and those who survive have exhibited severe neurological and endocrinological deficits and cognitive difficulties as well as having the development of a second tumor months or even years later. With the treatment raising so many red flags, this mother took her son, after his second surgery and went into hiding as she arranged for alternative and more natural ways of treatment. The medical community staunchly refused to acknowledge the possibility of any other methods being successful and took the mother to court in order to force their protocol upon her son. Now I ask you, who should have the right to make decisions regarding the health of the child? A loving and concerned parent or a team of medical experts who have a “formula” for every illness, condition and disease?
Sally Roberts is not a stupid woman. She knows her child is sick and has researched the internet and asked many doctors, nutritionists and holistic healers about additional follow-up treatment options. Let’s look at it from her point of view.
Her son is diagnosed and the doctors explain what is needed to make him well and the surgery is scheduled. She reads everything she can get her hands on, and following the surgery is told it was unsuccessful and another surgery will be required. Now, she faces additional weeks of turmoil, questioning the medical community and fervently looking for ways to save her son’s life and future.
Her son underwent his second surgery that went well, and now is expected to start the aftercare procedures that she has been opposed to since the beginning. She has spoken to the doctors, they are aware of her reluctance to their program and despite the fact that she had a plan in place for alternative care following her son’s surgery, his father, the doctors and the courts disagreed with her decision, and it was taken out of her hands. Neon will now be subjected to rash doses of radiation and a chemotherapy series that may create additional health issues in the future.
Was this the right decision; the only humane decision? The controversy over who should have the final say is an age-old one and will not be resolved any time in the near future. In some instances, withholding treatment, even for religious reasons is seen as a form of child abuse. Although many states here in the US will allow basic rights of the parents to stand, when it involves a minor and a life or death issue they will step in and declare the child a ward of the state so that medical care can be provided. This has of course caused some families to avoid doctors and hospitals so they may practice their own beliefs in private, without the interference of the government and the medical community.