As an NHS GP who ultimately gets his income from looted fund via the government I feel compelled to offer some commentary before condemning the doctors involved in Ashya’s care.
It appears that the initial social services and subsequent police involvement was triggered by Ashya leaving the hospital, without staff knowing he was leaving or where he was going. This is a significant event and does need a timely response in a child who is severely ill and would need hospital care within a short period of time. The hospital would call social services, to raise concerns, and the police, as rapid contact with Ashya was needed.
Doctors involved in care are legally and professionally bound to raise safeguarding concerns in children or vulnerable adults. When this has not been done the doctors can, and have been, disciplined and struck of by the General Medical Council, as well as the usual vilification in the press and by politicians. Baby P was such an example.
It is highly unlikely that a child cancer centre, which deals with complex children and their families in extremely difficult circumstances, would flippantly aim to remove a child from their parents due to hurt professional pride or a difference in opinion, especially when this would involve multiple staff to make this decision, not just one ‘rogue’ doctor.
Once the acute concern (finding Ashya) had been dealt with it is not the doctors who determine what happens next. That is up to social services. What happens in Spain once the family are met is up to Spanish police in liaison with Hampshire police.
Just because the initial raising of the alarm led to a heavy handed police response doesn’t mean the initial action from the hospital was at fault. Bear in mind the difference in professional views that occur however (and I have first hand experience of this): doctors may feel patients are ill unless otherwise proven; social servies believe parents are bad unless otherwise proven; police think people they encounter are lying criminals until otherwise proven.
Taking an ill child abroad, without even letting the hospital know they were leaving, is a cause for concern, in a society where the current consensus is that the state has a role in protecting the vulnerable. I am liberty orientated yet on many occasions have raised concerns to social services, including in cases of unexplained injuries in the vulnerable, as well as cases where the parent is a feckless substance abusing disaster, yet is still the most responsible carer holding the baby, other family and partners having left or been kicked out for domestic violence.
Doctors disagree with patients, parents, nurses, the media, other doctors and themselves every day – it is part of the job. Vaccines are not compulsory for children in the UK and the cases where treatment is mandated by a judge are rare indeed. Much as I’d like to refer to social workers when I see a child with a head moulding helmet for plagiocephaly (they grow out of it – have you seen many adults with misshaped heads recently?) this isn’t part of medical culture in the UK.
In summary I would be cautious over the facts of this story. Every similar story I have first hand experience is reported poorly. I would also differentiate between the initial alarm and the subsequent treatment by Spanish police of the family.
As to when others can intervene in the case of vulnerable children – that is perhaps the subject for someone else to post on, yet an absolute position that acknowledges parental rights only does has demonstrable problems.
I wish Ashya and his family all the best.