Parents fight for custody of ill son

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iol pic wld N847_BRITAIN-BOY-SPAIN_0903_11 REUTERS Naghemeh, left, and Brett King, right, parents of Ashya, arrive at Malaga's Materno-Infantil Hospital, where their son is hospitalised in Malaga, southern Spain. Picture: Jon Nazca

Spain - The parents of critically-ill British boy Ashya King fought for custody of the five-year-old on Thursday, having walked free from jail after prosecutors dropped cruelty accusations against them.

Brett King, 51, and his wife Neghemeh King, 45, enjoyed an emotional reunion with their son on Wednesday after British prosecutors lifted an extradition order against them.

“He was so pleased to see us, when he saw us he couldn't breathe. He couldn't believe it,” Brett King told AFP late Wednesday as he left the hospital in the southern Spanish city of Malaga with his lawyers.

Looking stressed and tired, the father said he did not know how long the custody process would last but he and his family would stay with Ashya in Malaga for “however long it takes”.

Ashya recently underwent surgery for a brain tumour in Southampton, southern England, but his parents took him out of a hospital there after disagreeing with doctors over his treatment.

Ashya was in a stable condition on Thursday and “his mother spent the night with him” at his bedside, a hospital official told AFP.

Brett King told reporters he would meet with a cancer specialist on Thursday to discuss Ashya's treatment with a view to taking him elsewhere for the alternative cancer care the family wants for the boy.

The Kings must wait however for authorities to make a custody ruling in the case, which sparked a wave of public sympathy in for the couple.

The hospital official said doctors were waiting on Thursday for British consular officials to advise on Ashya's legal status.

“The hospital will provide healthcare for the child until this issue is resolved,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

The Kings' lawyer Juan Isidro Fernandez Diaz told reporters the family's legal team was passing on medical information to the British authorities with a view to securing custody of Ashya to his parents.

The couple were arrested in Spain on Saturday because doctors raised concerns for Ashya's health after his parents took him out of the British hospital against their advice.

Brett King said he believed the radiotherapy treatment planned by doctors in England would have turned Ashya into a “vegetable”.

A paediatrician from the Southampton hospital that treated Ashya, Peter Wilson, defended the doctors' actions, saying: “It is our job to do the very best not just for the child but for the family. It goes to show how stressed they are as a family.”

He said doctors raised the alarm out of “absolute medical concern” because they thought Ashya's condition could deteriorate.

The Kings want Ashya to undergo an alternative treatment called proton beam therapy, available in Prague. Brett King said the family planned to sell its apartment in Malaga to fund the therapy.

The Proton Therapy Centre In Prague has said it was ready to treat Ashya, but that he would need to go back to England first to undergo two cycles of chemotherapy.

The Kings' legal troubles prompted an outpouring of public support in Britain, where tens of thousands of people signed a petition calling for the boy to be reunited with his parents.

Prosecutors had suspected the parents of “cruelty,” but the British Crown Prosecution Service on Tuesday withdrew the warrant, saying Ashya appeared to have been properly looked after.

British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed news that the case had been dropped, saying on his Twitter feed: “It's important this little boy gets treatment and the love of his family.” - AFP



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