‘Happy’ Ashya to begin treatment in Prague

A Czech centre due to provide five-year-old Ashya King with the medical treatment his family has desperately sought, since it was refused under British care, said he could check into hospital in Prague as early as next week.

'Happy' Ashya to begin treatment in Prague
Five-year-old Ashya King and his mother Naghmeh. Photo: Spanish National Police/Twitter

The Proton Therapy Centre (PTC) said Saturday its experts would fast-track their procedures for the young brain cancer sufferer, whose parents were arrested last week in Spain after pulling him from an English hospital in order to seek alternative care.

Brett King, 51, and Neghemeh King, 45, triggered an international manhunt when they took Ashya, the youngest of seven children, out of hospital.

The child had recently undergone surgery for his brain tumour, and the parents had rejected subsequent treatment they believed would turn him into a "vegetable".

Once in Spain, they were arrested under an extradition warrant for fear that Ashya's health was in danger, but British prosecutors later dropped the case amidst an outpouring of public sympathy.

A lawyer for the family, speaking on Saturday in front of the children's hospital in the southern Spanish city of Malaga where Ashya has been remained for a week, said the boy would head to Prague by Monday at the latest.

"Everything is ready for him to be transferred," lawyer Juan Isidro Fernandez told reporters.

The Prague clinic which is due to provide the proton beam therapy treatment had initially said Ashya should return to Britain for two rounds of chemotherapy, but on Friday indicated all treatment could take place in Prague.

"If the King family agrees, Ashya can receive not only the proton therapy but also chemotherapy in Prague", one of the PTC's managers, Iva Tatunova, said.

The PTC also said in a Saturday statement its admission procedure normally took 10 days, but that "in the case of Ashya King, a group of experts will meet on Monday at 8:00 am to discuss details of his transport and treatment, in light of Ashya's current state of health".

Another hospital, Prague-Motol, told AFP the boy would be hospitalised in one of their wards and "regularly transported in an ambulance to the PTC for treatment".

Proton beam therapy, which is more precise than traditional radiotherapy, allows doctors to deliver higher doses of energy to a tumour while better sparing surrounding healthy tissue.

According to the PTC, the procedure costs about 1.8 million kroner (€65,000, $84,000) in the Czech Republic, compared with €108,000 in the United States.

The Kings have said they will sell an apartment in Malaga to fund Ashya's treatment.

But the lead paediatrician at Southampton hospital, from where Ashya's parents had removed him, disagreed that the alternative therapy would help rid the boy of his medallublastoma cancer.

"For this particular tumour, the reason why the proton beam was not deemed to be of any benefit is because you have to irradiate most of the brain and spine anyway," he was quoted in The Guardian newspaper on Friday as saying.

Meanwhile, the King family lawyer said Ashya was happily united with his family at his Malaga hospital bedside.

"He is very happy. He has toys and is playing with his mother and father and we want the best for him," Fernandez said.

He said they had yet to decide whether to fly Ashya in a private plane with medical attendance or to accept an offer from the PTC to send a medical plane to collect him.

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