A High Court judge has ruled that a seven-year-old boy can receive radiotherapy for a cancerous brain tumour against the wishes of his mother – whose judgment, he said, had “gone awry”.
Mr Justice Bodey dismissed Sally Roberts’s attempt to prevent radiotherapy treatment being given to her son, Neon – and expressed concern over her decision- making regarding the child’s welfare.
Ms Roberts, who had earlier failed in a similar legal bid to prevent surgeons performing a follow-up operation on Neon, said she feared radiotherapy would cause long-term harm.
Mr Justice Bodey, who had been told by doctors that Neon could die within months without radiotherapy treatment, said he sympathised with the “nightmare” confronting Ms Roberts but was worried she had not grasped the seriousness of her situation.
“The mother has been through a terrible time. This sort of thing is every parent’s nightmare and I have sympathy for her,” said the judge, following a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
“But I am worried that her judgment has gone awry on the question of the seriousness of the threat which Neon faces.”
He said the operation Ms Roberts had opposed was live-saving and added: “I have become concerned about the mother’s attitude to Neon’s welfare generally.”
The judge ruled that radiotherapy sessions could start and said Neon should live with his father, Ben – who is separated from Ms Roberts – for the duration of his treatment.
He also said that, in future, doctors would need only Mr Roberts’s consent when making decisions about Neon’s cancer treatment.
He said it was important doctors were not hampered by a “stalemate” if parents took differing views.
Mr Roberts, who lives in London and had consented to radiotherapy treatment, was said to be “relieved”.
Ms Roberts, 37, a New Zealander who lives in Brighton, East Sussex, said after the hearing that she was “not allowed” to comment.
She had told the court she was not a “bonkers mother” but feared radiotherapy would reduce Neon’s IQ, shorten his life, put him at risk of having strokes and make him infertile.
And she told the judge that she wanted medics to consider alternatives.
A specialist treating Neon had told the court a team of cancer experts involved in his care had agreed radiotherapy treatment was in the little boy’s best interests, and wanted to start it as soon as possible.
The specialist accepted radiotherapy produced side effects, but said Neon could lead a “good life” after receiving treatment.
If radiotherapy sessions were not started, the doctors said Neon might die in two to three months, and lawyers representing them told the court Ms Roberts was suggesting “experimental therapies”, which were “unproven”, as alternatives.
“It is a balance between the disadvantages of radiotherapy and the improved prospects of living,” he said. “You can only suffer these detriments to your life if you are alive.”
After the hearing Mr Roberts’ solicitor, Gwen Williams, said: “Mr Roberts is relieved that the judge has been able to make a final ruling on Neon’s treatment.”