Everyone (in the UK at least) must know of Neon, the seven-year-old boy who has a brain tumour, medulloblastoma, and of Neon's mother, Sally Roberts, who is fighting for her son not to have radiotherapy and chemotherapy because of the danger, she says, of adverse side effects which could damage his brain and destroy his quality of life.
The Daily Mail, today, put it this way:
Cancer boy Neon WILL have radiotherapy against his mother's wishes after High Court ruling.
- Mr Justice Bodey said he was worried Sally Roberts judgement had 'gone awry'
- Mrs Roberts had tried to claim her son should have alternative treatment to radiotherapy
- Experts brand her alternatives 'completely unethical'
- She conceded that her argument is 'weak' under questioning
I don't intend to take sides on this issue (although you can probably guess which side I might be on). But if you are wondering if Mrs Roberts has a case, here is the abstract from a 2003 study about the long-term effects on survivors of exactly the treatment a judge has decided her son must have:
Macedoni-Luksic M, Jereb B, Todorovski L. Long-term sequelae in children treated for brain tumors: impairments, disability, and handicap. Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2003; 20: 89-101.
Sixty-one long-term survivors, treated for brain tumors in childhood, were evaluated in term of neurological impairments, disability, and handicap.
Thirty-eight patients (pts) (62%) had at least one impairment.
Visual impairment was detected in 14 pts (24%), associated with recurrence (p = .012).
34r pts (56%) had motor impairment, associated with sex (female) in irradiated patients;
13 (21%) had epilepsy, associated with supratentorial tumor site (p = .001).
The same number of patients had brain atrophy; risk factors were hydrocephalus at diagnosis and perioperative complications.
16 pts (30%) had IQ score < 80, associated with young age at first treatment (p = .006) and recurrence (p = .043).
27 out of 61 of our patients (44%) were disabled: 12 mildly, 14 moderately, and 1 severely.
Epilepsy was the most important risk factor for disability.
Cognitive impairment, motor impairment, and epilepsy were associated with employment (43%);
Cognitive impairment was also associated with education.
So is Mrs Roberts right to be worried about her son's having conventional treatment? Has her judgement 'gone awry'? You decide.