A 10-year-old boy who needs urgent surgery for a rare jaw cancer or face a "brutal and agonising death" within six months to a year has disappeared with his parents after they refused to give their consent for the life-saving but potentially face-disfiguring surgery.
It is believed that the boy has been taken to Poland, his home country. The boy, who has not been named but only identified as J, has been living in England with his parents and siblings for two years. According to High Court Judge Justice Mostyn, there is evidence that the boy and his mother left the country two weeks ago, followed by the father who is believed to have taken a ferry to France recently.
In his ruling in favour of the NHS trust responsible for the child's care, he agreed that surgery is in the boy's best interest. Not only are his parents opposed to the surgery, the boy had written to the judge to say that he does not want the operation either.
The judge noted that the family had expressed preference for Chinese medicine but he said the practitioner they had consulted had not treated the type of cancer the boy had. He said the boy had a "very rare aggressive" cancer in his right jawbone.
A paediatric oncologist had given evidence that the boy would "not slip peacefully away" but that "the cancer will likely invade his nerve system, affecting basic functions such as speaking, breathing and eating. His head will swell up grotesquely, his eyes may become closed by swelling, a tracheostomy may be needed to allow breathing.
"Above all, the pain will likely be excruciating. The matter is critically urgent. It is a strong thing for me, a stranger, to disagree with and override the wishes of [the boy] and his parents. But I have absolutely no doubt that [the boy] must be given the chance, a very good chance, of a long and fulfilling life rather than suffering, quite soon, a ghastly, agonising, death."
The Police embassy in London has been informed. The court was earlier told that the parents of the boy fear they will be blamed if their son becomes disfigured in later life due to the surgery which involves moving skin and bone from the boy's leg to his mouth. The surgery could possibly leave his face lop-sided.
In addition, he may be affected by "lameness" and would need false teeth in the affected jaw area. The boy will also have to be on a long term 'softish' diet due to chewing problems. The operation has a 55-65% chance of survival for five years and there is a 35-45% risk of the cancer re-emerging within that period.
The hearing, held in the Family Division of the High Court in London, was not attended by both the boy's parents this week. The judge did not identify anyone involved in the case in his ruling, nor were the NHS trust or local authority involved named, the Daily Mail said.