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Child Must Have Tumor Removed Against Mother’s Wishes, Judge Rules

Child Must Have Tumor Removed Against Mother’s Wishes, Judge Rules

A UK judge has ruled that a 7-year-old boy with a life-threatening brain tumor must have surgery despite his mother’s refusal to give consent.

The child in question, Neon Roberts, had a tumor removed last year. His mother, New Zealand-born Sally Roberts, 37, had refused to allow Neon to undergo radiation therapy, insisting it might cause her son long-term damage. However, when doctors discovered that Neon required urgent surgery in order to remove the tumor’s sizable regrowth, Sally Roberts — though having initially consented — also refused the surgery.

Mr Justice Bodey for the High Court ruled on Tuesday that, because of the urgency surrounding the treatment, he believed there was reason to overrule Neon’s mother’s wishes. He ordered that Neon Roberts should undergo the treatment as soon as possible and Neon was scheduled for surgery on Wednesday.

Reports the BBC:

Mr Justice Bodey said expert evidence showed Neon had a residual cancer growth larger than 1.5 sq cm.

Mrs Roberts told the court she wanted opinions from more doctors: “I feel I need more expert opinion on it before proceeding.”


The judge rejected arguments that the newly found growth could have been inflamed scar tissue from the last procedure.

Mr Justice Bodey said no-one could fail to be sympathetic with Neon’s mother.

But he added that, in such a case of such extreme urgency, further delay would only postpone difficult decisions and “we do not have the luxury of time”.

Sally Roberts, who had been locked in a bitter legal dispute with her estranged husband over Neon’s treatment, previously absconded with her son for four days, fearing that she would be forced to let Neon have surgery. Roberts later came forward, apologizing and saying that she only wanted to protect her son from harm.

The case itself is not unprecedented as far as British legal history goes. Indeed, there have been a number of cases where judges have been called upon to discern whether children should undergo life-saving treatment which their parents oppose on matters of religion or community taboo.

However, Sally Roberts refusal to allow her son to undergo radiation therapy against the wishes of the child’s father, and her subsequent going into hiding with Neon, forced the judge into the almost unprecedented move of releasing not only details about the case but Neon’s photograph in a public plea to find the boy.

Sally Roberts’ fears over the surgery are not completely unfounded. It is estimated there is a 16 to 25 percent risk that the surgery could leave Neon mute. Without the surgery, however, Neon would almost certainly die and, according to his doctors, within months if not weeks.

Roberts reportedly told the court she believed British medical experts had attempted to scare her into consenting to the surgery, saying she wanted opinions from medical experts from other countries to be sure the surgery was necessary.

Roberts, despite receiving a second opinion from medical experts and their expressing a consensus that the treatment was necessary, said she remained unconvinced. ”I still believe there are many more things on the planet that could help sort that boy out rather than chemotherapy and radiotherapy,” she is quoted as saying.

While there are provisions under British law for assessing whether children, those under 16, are able to consent to such surgery, they are not lightly invoked and overruling parents’ wishes is not something the British legal system takes likely. As such, this case has raised questions regarding how far parental rights extend and when a child’s right to life takes over.

Justice Bodey was also due to rule on the question of whether Sally Roberts’ wishes should be overruled and Neon be given radiation therapy. That decision is expected in the coming days.


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8:08AM PDT on May 19, 2013

Oh my God, the ignorance of some people is staggering. This woman wanted the best for her child, but the morons, got their way....have you seen him since, he is all but dead, her fears were realised. There were alternatives, but the medics in no way want you to refuse their 'cut, burn or radiate' fixes.

8:00AM PDT on May 19, 2013

Oh my God, the ignorance of some people is staggering. This woman wanted the best for her child, but the morons, got their way....have you seen him since, he is all but dead, her fears were realised. There were alternatives, but the medics in no way want you to refuse their 'cut, burn or radiate' fixes.

8:02PM PST on Jan 8, 2013

The judge made the right decision. If it wasn't so urgent in order to save they kids life, then I would say let the mother check into other alternatives. If she really wanted her son to stay alive she would have consented to the surgery. Her motive for not doing so? Who knows. I wish her and her son the best.

11:11AM PST on Dec 30, 2012


3:46PM PST on Dec 27, 2012

John D.
You sound like LaPierre of the NRA. The boy will likely die without the surgery, according to the medical experts. Someone has to die to appease the ignorant?

3:36PM PST on Dec 27, 2012

i say the mother should be allowed to seek out naturapathic care and should be helped with the exspences. why should she be forced to make a choice. thats not her own even when its not absolute. in its safty.i think all these orthodox medical people just do not want
lose the great power they have. even if it costs a life

11:31PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

Mrs Roberts is absolutely correct in her assertion that there are indeed other non-toxic,non-debilitating treatments available for tumours and the best known is Dr Stan Burzynski's antineoplastons,which have cured hundreds of cases of terminal brain tumours over the last forty years!!!I sincerely hope that Mrs Roberts can get Neon to Stafford,Texas,as Dr Burzynski can help her,just like he has saved the life of another young girl from London.Please someone,tell her about this,and help her with the costs?! A child's life is priceless and worth more than the vested interests which have tried to put Dr Burzynski out of business,and refused to allow his treatments to be available worldwide!!

7:36PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

A tumor is a protective mechanism for the body. Cancer can be eliminated and very quickly if the proper regimen is followed. Request details at

4:14PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

I don't think she had the best interests for her child. It was urgent he needed the surgery right away. He would have died if they had done all the things she wanted. Btw John I agree there maybe other treatments and medications. Many that are experimental but can you honestlybsay that those treatments would in this case worked in time they said without surgery right away he would die. Surgery would remove the tumor all at once the other treatments would have taken longer to achieve that, that's saying they could do it at all

3:31PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

@ Diana S “And any mother who is going to run off for four days with a child whose best interests are to be under the constant care of a doctor, is a nut-job,”

Neon wasn’t receiving constant care he was at home with his mother and if his condition was that desperate he would have been dead long before the judge gave a decision. If you thought someone (doctor or not) was going to do something that could harm your child despite your objections what would you do, give yourself a bit of time and space to consider the situation or stand back and say nothing.

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