Thank you to the dashing James Turner QC for posting this on Twitter. It is the judgment handed down by Mr Justice Baker in The Royal Courts of Justice on Monday.
You can see from the judgment that the parents clearly did not disagree with the type of treatment Ashya needed. Both the hospital and the Kings agreed that Ashya needed chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The disagreement stemmed purely around the type of radiotherapy to be administered.
Interestingly, the judgment also tells us that proton therapy is available at the Southampton hospital where Ashya was refused such treatment. The judgment also goes on to say that due to the presence of a medulloblastoma, the doctors at the hospital felt that proton therapy was not advisable. This will no doubt be a hotly debated area of the case, as medical professionals will no doubt hold differing views on this. That much we must assume, as the clinic in Prague had no hesitation in giving Ashya the treatment.
The judgment also tells us that refusal of the therapy under these conditions (i.e. due to Ashya’s medulloblastoma) is standard NHS England policy. However, the policy does not give hospitals the right to prevent people looking for desired treatments or therapies elsewhere.
Turning quickly to the legal principles in this case, we add an extract from the judgment below, which, we think, is a good reminder of the basic principles:
- First, and most important, Ashya’s welfare is my paramount consideration.
- Secondly, I have regard to Ashya’s human rights under the European Convention. In particular, I bear in mind his right to life under Article 2 and his right to respect for a private and family life under Article 8.
- Thirdly, it is a fundamental principle of family law in this jurisdiction that responsibility for making decisions about a child rest with his parents. In most cases, the parents are the best people to make decisions about a child and the State – whether it be the court, or any other public authority – has no business interfering with the exercise of parental responsibility unless the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the care given to the child not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give.
The judgment is a balanced one in that it seeks to sympathise with both the King family and the authorities who involved themselves in the case. Baker also says that he feels the social workers acted within reason and that they were not wrong in applying to the High Court and seeking out a wardship order. Rather tellingly, he sidesteps the European Arrest warrant issue, entirely.
But rather nicely, he wishes Ashya a good recovery and sends his best wishes to him and extends them also, to his loving parents.
And that, is a judge’s lot.