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Mother Sally Roberts stands by her legal quest for brain tumour son Neon

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 27, 2013


A mother has told how she stands by her legal bid to try to stop her seven-year-old son receiving radiotherapy for a brain tumour, describing the treatment as "barbaric and plain torture".

A High Court judge ruled late last year that Sally Roberts' son Neon should undergo radiotherapy for the cancerous tumour against her wishes.

Although the youngster has a survival rate of up to 82% now, Ms Roberts, 37, said she was upset by the decision to press ahead with the gruelling treatment.

Asked for her view on the legal battle, she told BBC Radio 5 Live's Victoria Derbyshire: "I stand by that. I'm upset that they moved forward in the way they have.

"I'm having to face the side-effects from the radiation and the chemotherapy, which is devastating."

Ms Roberts, a New Zealander had been living in Tiverton in Devon when she disappeared with Neon last year, sparking a nationwide police hunt.

The mother, now living in Brighton, East Sussex, said "weak and fragile" Neon had lost his hair and suffered weight loss, poor short-term memory and poor co-ordination. But, despite the side-effects, Ms Roberts said she has been told the success rate from having the treatment has been put at between 67% and 82%.

She said: "I have never doubted that he was not going to be alive at the end of this, with or without treatment.

"I just felt that he would be much better off without the treatment and providing the body with what it needs to heal, not bombarding it with radiation, which is what we are taught to avoid.

"I don't understand why we are using it in hospitals. I find it barbaric and plain torture. Needlessly, children are suffering."

She added that the course of treatment was "unnecessary" and went on: "They just come in with their conventional cure and it's worse than the condition itself."

Ms Roberts hit the headlines when she disappeared with Neon but both were found safe and well after a judge ordered a search. She later apologised for vanishing and said that she had panicked.

Ms Roberts told the show: "Why did I take him away? Because I was being panicked into making a decision without being informed and I needed to gather more information. I asked them where they were getting their statistics from and they could only provide me with a study from the 1940s."

In December, a High Court judge ruled Neon could receive radiotherapy for the tumour, against the wishes of Ms Roberts whose judgment, he said, "had gone awry".

Mr Justice Bodey dismissed Ms Roberts' attempt to prevent her son having radiotherapy treatment, and expressed concern over her decision-making regarding his welfare.

Ms Roberts, who had earlier failed in a similar legal bid to prevent surgeons performing a follow-up operation on Neon, feared that radiotherapy would cause long-term harm.

Mr Justice Bodey, who had been told by doctors that Neon could die within months without radiotherapy treatment, said he sympathised with the "nightmare" confronting Ms Roberts. But he said he was worried she had not grasped the seriousness of Neon's situation, and that the operation she opposed was life-saving.

The judge ruled that radiotherapy sessions could start and that Neon should live with his father Ben – who is separated from Ms Roberts – during his treatment. During the hearing at the High Court, he said that, in future, doctors would need only Mr Roberts' consent when making decisions about Neon's treatment.

He said it was important doctors were not hampered by a "stalemate" if parents took differing views.

Ms Roberts said her focus now was to try to offer as many natural therapies as possible to "eradicate side-effects of radiation" in Neon.

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