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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

September 14, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

A British family is fighting a fight that’s becoming all too familiar. They’re fighting governmental authorities over who gets to decide what medical care their child receives — or doesn’t receive. Read about it here (Daily Mail, 9/9/14).

Brett King and his wife Naghemeh have a son, Ashya, who’s five. Ashya has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and has undergone two surgeries to remove it and, they hope, stop its spread. But the Kings wanted follow-up treatment in the Czech Republic at the Proton Therapy Center. They opted for treatment that they understand to be both effective and less toxic for Ashya than traditional radiation treatment.

But apparently British doctors disagreed with the parents’ choice and, according to King, threatened to have Ashya taken into care if they didn’t agree with their recommended course of treatment.

Mr King said: ‘They said to me if I question anything and ask questions as a father...they would take my son away from me, not just for the treatment but until he was 16.

‘I wouldn’t be able to see my son for 11 years.

‘I said to my wife this is something so serious that our son could be taken away until he is 16.

‘Eleven years without us, he wouldn’t know his parents, his brothers, his sisters or anyone.

‘We knew we couldn’t let that happen.

‘We couldn’t question them any more. We couldn’t let them know our feelings because one mistake on our side and they’d take him away.’

British hospital personnel dispute King’s description of their position on Ashya’s treatment.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust have repeatedly said they absolutely refute the suggestion that the King family was threatened.

Ashya’s parents removed him from Southampton General Hospital without the permission of doctors late last month and took him to Southern Spain where they planned to sell a holiday home to fund the alternative treatment…

After being tracked down they were arrested and thrown into a Spanish jail for three nights.

They were released following a public outcry and reunited with Ashya who had been removed and put into a hospital in Malaga.

Face it, most people who take their kids on a trip to Spain aren’t treated like criminals and jailed, but the Kings were. That raises the question, “Why?” and Brett King sounds to me like he has the answer. It sounds like British authorities did very much what he claims they did and, when he and his wife rejected their advice and exercised their parental option to seek medical care for their child, British child welfare workers told the police the Kings were a danger to Ashya, necessitating their arrest. Only when it became clear that the Kings were doing nothing more than disagreeing with British doctors about the correct course of treatment for Ashya and the public reacted to the heavy-handed tactics were the threats withdrawn and the Kings released from jail and permitted to take their son to Prague for treatment. From here, I can’t see any other explanation for why two parents who’ve done nothing wrong should have been arrested.

And of course the whole incident raises important and troubling issues. Just who is a child’s parent? Who gets to decide a child’s medical care? Just a couple of years ago, a Detroit mother, Marianne Godboldo was attacked in her home by the Detroit SWAT team that arrived in an armored personnel carrier. They broke down her door, arrested her and forcibly removed her 13-year-old daughter.

Her crime? She, in consultation with the girl’s pediatrician, had decided to take the child off a powerful psychotropic medication. Godboldo’s daughter had experienced mental problems and the question of how to handle them had arisen. Godboldo thought the medication was making matters worse and the pediatrician agreed.

But local CPS had other ideas. They went to court with an emergency (what was the emergency?) petition. No notice of the hearing was given to Godboldo, which was just as well, since there was no hearing. CPS personnel carried the petition and the order they wanted to the judge, but apparently didn’t even need to speak to him/her. A clerk simply stamped the order with the judge’s signature stamp and that was that. No notice, no hearing, no evidence and no judge.

That order allowed CPS to remove Godboldo’s daughter from her care, a fact unknown to her. When she refused to allow CPS to do so, the next thing she knew, the SWAT team was breaking down her door. Apart from the complete absence of due process of law, the salient feature of the case was the fact that the child was kept in a mental hospital for several weeks. Doctors there apparently agreed with Godboldo that the medication shouldn’t be given the girl and, sure enough, she improved and was eventually returned to relatives and then to her mother. Needless to say, Godboldo is now suing everyone in sight.

Then there was a case in Massachusetts recently in which a girl was kept from her parents due to their disagreement with doctors about the child’s diagnosis and treatment. In that case, one set of doctors gave one diagnosis and another set another. The parents opted to treat the child according to the first set of doctors, but the second set succeeded in convincing a judge to have her removed from her parents’ care. That decision too has been reversed.

The point though is that, once again, state actors are taking it on themselves to second-guess parents’ decisions. None of the parents I’ve mentioned are careless; none of them believe that faith alone will heal their children; none of them neglects or abuses their children. They’re just exercising their best parental judgment about how to care for their kids.

And, given that, state official should simply butt out of their lives and their decisions about their children. But they don’t. On the contrary, they use the supposed well-being of children as an open door into all aspects of child care. Yes, where there is clear abuse or neglect that poses a risk to children, the state may legitimately intervene. But in none of the cases I’ve mentioned or countless others has there been anything like that. Clearly, Brett King and his wife are the most caring of parents who are trying to do their best for their gravely ill son. The state should allow them to do so. Again, there are two sets of doctors — one in the U.K. and one in the Czech Republic — with dueling views of how best to care for Ashya. The thoroughly outrageous view of British authorities is not merely that the Czech doctors are wrong, but that they are so wrong that to agree with them should be punishable by having a little boy taken from his parents for the next 11 years.

As is so often the case, child protective authorities are all too ready to substitute their own version of good parenting for that of a child’s actual parents, who, unlike the state actors, love him deeply and will have to live with the results of their decisions. Let’s never forget that state authorities — judges, CPS workers, etc. — issue their orders, do their jobs and then move on to the next case. Often as not, they’re not around to see if they were right or wrong.

The natural tendency of governments to arrogate power to themselves is seldom more obvious than when it comes to children. Time and again we see children being the all-purpose excuse for states to barge into family life and do pretty much anything they choose. Nothing — including the specter of terrorism — has so eroded the barriers between the individual and the state as has the notion of children at risk of harm. We see it day after day and we see nothing to suggest the problem will do anything but get worse.

Remember Scotland? A little less than two years from now, a law will go into effect that will assign a sort of super-parent to every single child in the country. That “named adult” will have the power to second-guess essentially every significant decision parents make. Needless to say, had that regime been in force in England, little Ashya King would be receiving radiation therapy in the care of total strangers. Sound like a good outcome? A five-year-old, taken from his loving parents, deposited with strangers and then made to undergo some of the most traumatic treatment the medical profession has to offer. And then of course he would have been prevented from seeing the only parents he’s ever known for the next 11 years.

State actors must learn the difference between parents who truly are incompetent, violent or neglectful and those who, while we may disagree with their decisions are still acting in their child’s best interests as they see them. Anything else asks us to expand state power into the home and family in ways that should be undreamed of and must be opposed.

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

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#children'swelfare, #medicalcare, #parentalrights, #statepower, #UK

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