It was a bittersweet family reunion. Ashya King, the critically ill five-year-old whose removal from a British hospital triggered an international police hunt, was finally reunited with his parents at a hospital in Málaga on Wednesday.
According to eyewitnesses, the little boy, who has a serious brain tumor, burst into tears as soon as he saw his mother and father walk through the door. Brett and Naghemeh King had been separated from Ashya since Sunday, when Spanish police detained them after UK prosecutors issued a European warrant for their arrest.
But the family’s joy was dampened by the fact that the British authorities have taken custody of the boy away from the Kings. Although the arrest warrant has been dropped following intense political and social pressure, Ashya remains a ward of court, meaning that his parents cannot take him out of hospital without medical consent.
In Spain, a child’s interest prevails over the parents’ authority when it comes to medical treatment
A family court in London will now have to decide whether Ashya is allowed to travel to the Czech Republic for proton beam treatment, an alternative to regular cancer therapy that the Kings want their son to undergo claiming that it will be less aggressive.
Brett and Naghemeh King took their son out of Southampton hospital without consent and fled to Spain after doctors refused to provide Ashya with proton beam treatment and allegedly threatened the father with a court order if he kept challenging their views, according to the latter’s version of events.
The family apparently wanted to sell a property they have in Andalusia to raise money for the therapy. They were arrested at a small hotel in Vélez-Málaga on Sunday after the desk clerk recognized them from media descriptions. The parents were transferred to Soto del Real penitentiary in Madrid, where they spent 72 hours in custody while a Spanish judge decided whether to grant Britain’s extradition request. On Tuesday, all charges were dropped.
But the family now has to wait to get custody of Ashya back before they can take him elsewhere for treatment.
The Kings’ lawyer said the family will sue the British hospital. “Something is not right with the justice we have received from England,” said Brett King.
In Spain, a child’s interest prevails over the parents’ authority when it comes to medical treatment in life-threatening situations. This means that in emergency cases when a child’s life is at risk, a doctor may apply a treatment without parental consent, explained Ricardo de Lorenzo, president of the Spanish Association of Health Law.
In Ashya King’s case, the treatment sought by his parents in theory does not put his life at risk, meaning that they have the right to seek it, added Cristóbal Zarco, of the Physicians Association’s legal department. He feels that it should not have been a problem in Britain, either. “From our perspective, it looks like the parents did not understand the protocols involved in taking their child out of the hospital, or else they bypassed those protocols.”