News

Brain tumour boy can be given radiotherapy against mother’s wishes, court says

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8696 (Published 27 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8696
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

A 7 year old boy who has had surgery for a brain tumour can be given radiotherapy against his mother’s wishes, a High Court judge has ruled.

Neon Roberts was at the centre of a High Court battle over whether he should have a second bout of surgery followed by radiotherapy, both of which his mother, Sally Roberts, opposed.

She went into hiding with Neon, who had an operation to remove the medulloblastoma in October, because she feared the possible side effects of radiotherapy such as a reduced IQ and infertility. This month scans showed a further tumour nodule, but Roberts refused to consent to more surgery.

Mr Justice Bodey ruled that he should have the operation, which took place on 19 December and has been deemed a success.1 Magnetic resonance imaging showed that the tumour appeared to have been removed completely.

At a further hearing on 21 December, despite arguments by Roberts that alternative treatments should be explored, the judge ordered that radiotherapy should go ahead.

Earlier Ian Peddie QC, for Roberts, told the judge, “Her stance merely reflects the love that she has for him. The mother, having considered the pros and cons of radiotherapy, does not believe it is in his best interests because of the significant and long term consequences of the dramatic, powerful brain altering treatment.”

The judge asked New Zealand born Roberts, who lives in Brighton, whether “some sort of tie up” with the media was influencing her thinking, but she replied, “My son is the only important thing to me.” Neon’s father, her estranged husband Ben, wants him to have the treatment that doctors recommend.

Doctors from the hospital treating Neon, which has been granted anonymity, told the court that they sympathised with Roberts and accepted that radiotherapy could have side effects but believed that the boy could die unless he was given the orthodox treatment. There was only a 35% survival rate with chemotherapy alone, the judge heard.

“The mother has been through a terrible time,” the judge said. “This sort of thing is every parent’s nightmare. But I am worried that her judgment has gone awry on the question of the seriousness of the threat which Neon faces.”

He added, “I hope when the mother reflects on the outcome of this hearing she will come to terms with it. I am sure she will support [Neon] through the very difficult time which he has ahead. [Neon] needs both his parents to support him to pull together with this.”

The judge said that it would take several days to prepare Neon for the “sophisticated procedures,” which doctors advised had a success rate of at least 80%.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8696

References