A Labour MP yesterday called for a clarification in the law surrounding situations where parents and doctors cannot agree about medical treatments for a child.
Bambos Charalambous MP tabled a Ten Minute Rule Bill – which rarely become law – following several high-profile court cases in recent years, including Ashya King and Tafida Raqeeb.
Both had serious medical conditions, and legal proceedings ensued when their parents refused to give up hope and sought treatment elsewhere.
In introducing his Bill, Charalambous highlighted Tafida’s case, where doctors of a girl who suffered a traumatic brain injury wanted to turn off life support, contrary to the wishes of her family.
In October, a landmark High Court ruling allowed her parents to take her to Genoa for treatment. She received it and it was successful. Nine weeks ago she left intensive care and is now breathing on her own.
He also highlighted the case of Ashya King. In 2014 his parents removed him from hospital in Southampton after disagreeing with doctors over appropriate treatment for a brain tumour.
After initially being arrested, they were able to take Ashya to the Czech Republic for a type of treatment which was subsequently made available in the UK. In 2018, MRI scans showed Ashya to be free of cancer.
‘Stressful court cases’
Charalambous said: “These are just two of a number of cases where there is expensive and intensive court proceedings where judges have to make what should be an ethical decision about medical treatment. This is a fundamental flaw in a system that this bill tries to remedy.
“It’s clear to me that we do not have appropriate support mechanisms in place to bring parents and doctors together at an early stage where there are disagreements about treatment and to properly address difficult decisions, difficult questions which may very well prevent these long, stressful and expensive court cases which are harmful to the child, parents, doctors and hospitals.”
He said his Bill seeks to provide an opportunity for families to swiftly secure a second medical opinion; for families to have full access to their child’s medical data; and for families to be given access to legal aid so that they are not forced to ‘crowdfund’ to cover expensive legal fees.
He concluded: “It is my view, and the consensus view of medical ethicists, that if a treatment is not harmful, and reputable doctors are willing to provide it, that no-one should be prevented from seeking this treatment.”
“Conflicts are bad for doctors, they are bad for parents, bad for our NHS, and bad for the children whose care is under consideration.”