Posted by Patrick Hart, Partner
On 1 September 2016 Withy King LLP merged with Royds LLP. The trading name for the merged firm is Royds Withy King. All content produced prior to this date will remain in the name of the firms pre-merger.
High Court rules Ashya King’s freedom from legal controls
Ashya King, the five-year-old boy at the centre of the debate surrounding parental rights and European arrest warrants, has now ceased to be a ward of the court and has been flown to Prague to receive treatment for a brain tumour.
The judge, Mr Justice Baker, said that Portsmouth City Council had been correct to apply for Ashya to become a ward of the court based on the medical evidence it had concerning the five-year-old’s condition and the risks he faced at that time.
However, Mr Baker described Brett and Naghemeh King as “loving parents” saying “it was not in Ashya’s best interests to have been separated” from them. The judge admitted that there are cases where parents seek unreasonable medical treatment, but that this was not so in this case.
He said: “Responsibility about a child rests with his parents. In most cases the parents are the best people to make decisions about a child. The state has no business in interfering in the parental responsibility unless the child is suffering or is likely to suffer considerable harm.”
The decision was announced following confirmation that Ashya had been admitted to the Motol hospital in Prague for treatment.
Ashya’s case raises a number of legal and moral issues, becoming the subject of much debate about the appropriateness of the actions of the statutory authorities and the rights of individual parents and families as well as the police, including discussion about the right to a private and family life.
Although the hospital, consultants and police have been criticised about their heavy handed and bureaucratic approach to the way the King family exercised their parental rights, Ashya’s parents face judgement of their religious beliefs being of the Jehovah’s Witness faith. They have also been subjected to allegations of neglect, kidnapping and cruelty which they vehemently deny. However, what cannot be disputed is that each did what they considered to be in Ashya’s best interests.
Currently, disagreement between healthcare professionals and parents (whose consent must be obtained for treatment to be lawfully provided) is usually resolved by the courts. However, the law also states that doctors are under no legal or ethical obligation to agree to a request for treatment if they do not consider it to be in best interests of their patients.
Trust, communication and respect for individual beliefs are essential, as are second opinions from independent consultants as the legal, ethical and moral principles in these situations are complex.
Generally, arrangements can be made by agreement or by involvement of the court, for transfer to alternative centres of excellence for treatment and it is unfortunate for events to have unfolded as they have in the King case.
At Royds, our family law experts can advise on many aspects including ensuring that children and families are protected when they need it most. For more information, please visit or contact Patrick Hart or Vandana Chitroda.
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