Irish Times

Parents granted time to consult cancer experts abroad

THE PARENTS of a four-year-old boy who have concerns about the continuation of a particular regime of cancer treatment for him should be given time to explore other medical opinion, the President of the High Court said yesterday.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said it would be wrong for him to direct the child, who has leukaemia, to undergo further “distressing” treatment in circumstances where there was no imminent threat to his life and where his parents wanted to seek a second opinion from abroad.

In those circumstances, the judge adjourned to May 3rd an application by the Health Service Executive for an order allowing it to continue giving the child, who also has Down syndrome, the treatment which has been recommended by doctors.

The court heard the child was in remission and the parents, who had consented to 23 weeks of the treatment, which had very painful effects last year, were prepared to give further permission if there was any relapse. In the meantime, they wanted time to consult cancer experts abroad.

The HSE brought the application last week after the court was told the boy needed the treatment, which the HSE described as life-saving.

Yesterday, Felix McEnroy, for the HSE, said the parents had taken the view that if there was any relapse, they would immediately re-engage with the treatment. The hospital’s position was, if this treatment was completed, the child would have an 80 per cent chance of survival, which was “extraordinary” in this situation.

The HSE was obliged to vindicate the legal and constitutional rights of the child, counsel said.

While the HSE respected the rights of the parents to fair procedures, time was running out and the risks were “unacceptable”, he added.

The court heard earlier this week the boy’s parents were not prepared to go to the next, more “intensive stage” of treatment, and their objections were scientific rather than philosophical.

When the matter came back before Mr Justice Kearns yesterday, he said he would like to speak with the parents in the hope resort to the courts could be avoided. After a short adjournment, the parents arrived in court.

The judge spoke with them in private and afterwards said he was satisfied the parents were “completely responsible” and had the very best interests of the child at heart.

Full article


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