Parents Speak Out After Being Jailed for Taking Cancer-Stricken Son Out of Country

The boy's parents were arrested for taking him to Spain for cancer treatment.

ByABC News
September 3, 2014, 11:39 AM

— -- Brett King said he could hear his wife crying as he sat helplessly in a separate Spanish jail cell, arrested for taking their cancer-stricken son out of the United Kingdom for a treatment they say their doctor refused to offer.

The Kings were arrested for taking 5-year-old Ashya out of the country for proton beam therapy, which they said the Southampton University Hospital refused to discuss following the initial surgery to remove Ashya’s tumor.

"When we were in prison, there wasn't a minute that went by without our hearts hurting to see Ashya," King told reporters today. "Being locked up, you can't do anything."

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He said Ashya wasn't allowed to have any visitors since their arrest in Spain on Saturday. British prosecutors dropped their arrest warrant on Tuesday, and the couple spoke to the media upon their release today.

"My heart is still up here," he said, grabbing his throat. He said he looked forward to reuniting with his son.

"We want to help my son get through this bad time because he hasn't got too many months to live," Brett King said.

Ashya was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor located in the cerebellum, a part of the brain that controls motor functions. Ashya had a 70 percent to 80 percent chance of surviving five years, according to a statement from Southampton University Hospital, where Ashya was being treated before the family left for Spain.

After surgery to remove the tumor, King said he wasn't satisfied with hospital's treatment plan, which he called "trial and error." So he researched treatments on the Internet and came up with what he thought was a better approach: proton beam therapy, a type of focused radiation therapy that uses protons rather than X-rays.

"Proton beam is so much better in children with brain cancer," he said in a YouTube video, holding a nearly motionless Ashya in his arms. "It zones in on the area whereby normal radiation passes right through his head and comes out the other side, destroys everything in his head."

Brett King holds his son Ashya, 5, in a hotel room in Spain. The King family took Ashya from the British hospital where he was being treated to seek a treatment they say his doctors refused to provide: proton beam therapy.

Though King said he pleaded with his doctors to help him get the therapy for Ashya, they told him Ashya wouldn't benefit from it because of the kind of tumor he had. But King said his research told him the opposite.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute considers proton beam therapy "under investigation" for tumors like Ashya's.

King said when he questioned the doctors' plans, they threatened to take Ashya away from him via a protection order.

"We couldn't take it anymore, not knowing and not being able to question anything," King said. "We couldn't be under that system anymore."

So on Friday, they took Ashya to Spain, where King intended to sell his property there to pay for the proton beam therapy himself. They planned to take Ashya to the Proton Therapy Center in Prague, Czech Republic.

The family stayed in a hotel room as police searched for them.

"We've decided to try and sort it out ourselves, but now we're refugees," King said. "We're not neglecting him. He has everything that he had in the hospital."

He said he bought syringes, intravenous nutrition and other hospital equipment online.

"Call off this ridiculous chase," he said. "We just want to be left in peace. ... I'm not coming back to England if I cannot give him the treatment that I want."

The video was shot minutes before King and his wife were arrested, their son Naveed said in a follow-up YouTube video. They faced extradition back to England, but British prosecutors withdrew their arrest warrant today.

Ashya King is pictured in this undated handout file photo issued by Hampshire Police on Sept. 1, 2014.

New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan said there isn't much evidence proton beam therapy would work, but if the family found a legitimate hospital willing to treat Ashya, they have the right to take him there.

"As long as it's a legitimate place, I think they should be able to do that without being chased all over the globe," Caplan said.

According to Southampton University Hospital, Ashya "went missing" on Friday, prompting hospital officials to involve police, the hospital's medical director Dr. Michael Marsh said in a statement.

"We very much regret that the communication and relationship with the King family had broken down in this way and that for whatever reason they have lost confidence in us," Marsh said, adding the hospital discussed proton beam therapy with the family and concluded there wasn't evidence to suggest it would work.

But Tuesday, after the Prague center said it would take on Ashya as a patient, Southampton University Hospital said it was "willing to support the family's transfer" and was "of course open to discussing this." But now those decisions are up to a judge.

Undated handout photos issued by police on Sept. 1, 2014, show Brett King and Naghemeh King, the parents of Ashya King, who took the five-year-old brain cancer patient out of hospital without doctors' consent.