The case of Ashya King, the five-year-old cancer patient whose parents fled with the boy to Europe seeking specialist medical care, has demonstrated the desperate lengths some will go to in order to treat the seriously ill.
Ashya’s father, Brett King, said the family, stopped by police in Spain last night, was hoping to get to the Czech Republic, having been dismayed by attempts to treat his son on the NHS at Southampton General Hospital.
His parents, who were taken into custody, had been seeking proton beam radiotherapy – currently only available to treat eye conditions on the NHS in the UK.
Countries throughout Europe are, however, already using proton beam for a range of cancers in adults and children.
According to Cancer Research UK, the treatment differs from X-ray methods by aiming proton beams at cancers.
It works by sending charges into cancer cells, with doses of radiation aimed directly at the tumour.
At the same time, the treatment spares healthy tissue, particularly tissues and organs behind the tumour.
The treatment is popular because it has a lower risk of side effects, though others are concerned that the long-term impact of the nascent procedure is not yet known.
In a video blog posted on YouTube prior to his arrest in Spain, Mr King said he was prepared to raise the money to pay for his son’s treatment in Europe.
”Proton beam is so much better for children with brain cancer,” he said. ”It zones in on the area, whereby normal radiation passes right through his head and comes out the other side and destroys everything in his head.
”We pleaded with them (in Southampton) for proton beam treatment. They looked at me straight in the face and said with his cancer – which is called medulloblastoma – it would have no benefit whatsoever.
”I went straight back to my room and looked it up and the American sites and French sites and Switzerland sites where they have proton beam said the opposite, it would be very beneficial for him.
”Then I spoke to them again, I wrote a letter which he never responded to, saying OK – I will sell my property in order to pay for the proton beam.”