Neon Roberts, the seven-year-old British boy at the center of a parental battle over his treatment, will have a potentially life-saving brain operation today — despite his mother’s refusal of consent.
On Tuesday, a high court judge ordered that surgery to remove a “high risk” residual brain tumor would take place on Wednesday after doctors warned Neon would certainly die without the procedure, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Neon’s mother, Sally Roberts, a former music DJ now resident in the UK but originally from New Zealand, sparked a nationwide hunt earlier this month when she disappeared with her son from their Devon home before a scheduled court appearance to decide on Neon’s treatment.
Found four days later in Brighton after her estranged husband alerted police, Mrs. Roberts ran away to prevent her son from having radiotherapy over fears the treatment “could leave him disabled,” said The Guardian.
Although the pair were found four days later, the dispute between Mrs Roberts and her estranged husband became more urgent after MRI tests on Neon last week revealed that a half-inch mass — medulloblastoma — from a previous tumor had returned.
After medical experts — including neurosurgeons, radiologists, pathologists, and oncologists — testified in court that Neon desperately needed the surgery, the judge agreed.
As he made his dramatic ruling yesterday, judge Mr Justice Bodey told the court:
“I have weighed up the risk factors attached to surgery. It is obvious and known to everyone that all operations carry risk and this is no exception. But taking this on balance against the expected gain to [Neon], in the unhappy position he now finds himself in, I am quite satisfied that surgery is in his best interests and I am making a declaration so it can go ahead. Further delay would only postpone difficult decisions.”
“We do not have the luxury of time.”
According to the Daily Telegraph, Mrs. Roberts — who also dismissed her legal team, later appointing Mr Imran Khan — consented to the operation after the MRI results. However, she changed her mind at the “eleventh hour” and said she needed more “expert opinion” from Germany, Russia, China, and the US.
In court, Mrs. Roberts said that she believed other countries had more up-to-date studies on cancer treatment and that British doctors “put the fear into me saying he will die,” The Guardian writes.
After the court’s ruling, Mrs. Roberts told The Daily Mail: “I believe in this. ‘Death by doctor’ — people need to understand how big a problem it is. I couldn’t forgive myself if I did nothing.”
The removal of the mass in Neon’s brain is only one stage of the treatment proposed. Arguments about radiotherapy from medical experts will be heard before the judge in court on Thursday.