• Parents told conventional radiotherapy would leave son with 'special needs'
  • NHS [National Health Service] doctors 'threatened to have couple's parental rights removed'
  • Brett and Naghmeh King say they were forced to take Ashya, 5, on the run
  • Family has now secured Ashya's treatment in a private clinic
  • They say proton beam therapy has already improved Ashya's health
Asyha is accompanied by his parents as he arrives at the Motol Hospital in Prague, Czech Republic

A cancer doctor treating five-year-old Ashya King admitted the only treatment available on the NHS would leave him with life-long disabilities, his parents revealed yesterday.

Brett and Naghmeh King were told conventional radiotherapy would leave their son with 'special needs' which could be avoided if he received pioneering treatment abroad.

Despite that admission, NHS doctors insisted they would go ahead with normal radiotherapy and threatened to have the horrified couple's parental rights removed if they questioned the decision, the family said.

Speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail, Mr and Mrs King said they were forced to take their desperately ill son on the run across Europe to protect him from the devastating side effects of the NHS treatment.

The family's plight shocked the world when the couple were arrested for child cruelty and thrown in jail while Ashya was kept under armed guard, alone in a Spanish hospital.

His brothers and sisters were banned from seeing him, and his parents said he was left 'crying like a wounded animal through the night' in his single bed ward.

Now reunited, the family has secured his treatment in a private clinic and say the proton beam therapy - and their love - has already produced improvements in his health.

In a moving and shocking interview serialised this week in the Mail, they tell how:

· Ashya's initial operation to remove his brain tumour left him 'like a vegetable with his eyes open'

· His parents had to hold his eyelids shut to allow him to sleep

· His suffering was so shocking his mother questioned if it was right to keep him alive

· Doctors said conventional radiotherapy would cause hearing and growth problems and leave him with special needs

· Medics said the NHS would not fund proton beam therapy despite it offering a better quality of life

· The couple was told the NHS only considered 'survival' in cancer funding decisions, not the potentially devastating side effects

Mr and Mrs King faced every parent's nightmare when Ashya was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour after suffering a series of mystery symptoms.

He was admitted to Southampton General Hospital for brain surgery and initially the couple were confident doctors were doing everything possible to save their son.

But the family's own research into his condition led them to question the doctors' insistence that he needed high doses of radiotherapy which would risk massive damage to healthy brain tissue.

Mr King, 51, said he asked about proton beam therapy as an alternative several times, but was told it offered no benefits over normal radiotherapy.

© Mark Large
Parents Ashya King: Are we criminals for what we did?
One doctor was said to have told him: 'If you continue with these questions your rights to make decisions about Ashya will be taken away from you.

'We will apply to the family court to have your parental rights removed and then we will give him any treatment we want.'

Mr King, a property developer from Southsea, Hampshire, said he then asked a radiologist at the hospital and was told cancer treatment decisions were taken on the basis of 'survival rates', not the patient's quality of life afterwards.

The radiologist told him: 'If you're asking me about quality of life, proton is superior.

'With radiotherapy, your son will get secondary tumours, have hearing problems, growth problems and special needs for the rest of his life.

'Children pay a heavy price for survival under normal radiotherapy.'

Faced with such a grim forecast for their child's future, Mr and Mrs King said they felt they had no option but to take Ashya to Prague for treatment.

When doctors discovered the boy was gone they contacted police, who issued a European arrest warrant for the couple.

Two days later the parents were arrested in Spain as they prepared to sell their holiday home to fund Ashya's treatment.

Mrs King, 45, was arrested as she tried to get into an ambulance to accompany her five-year-old son to hospital and heard police questioning their instructions.

One officer was overheard saying: 'What sort of world do we live in where you take a sick child away from his mother?'

Mr and Mrs King were arrested and thrown into cells in one of Spain's most notorious prisons for three nights, while Ashya was kept alone and isolated hundreds of miles away.

The outcry over the family's plight led to criticism that police and prosecutors had been too heavy-handed in issuing the European arrest warrant, which was eventually withdrawn.

Comment: Maybe a public outcry is the only thing that helps get these poor abducted children back?

Public anger also prompted a nationwide fund-raising effort as people rallied to help the family.

© Mark Large
Mrs King, 45, was arrested as she tried to get into an ambulance to accompany her five-year-old son to hospital

Mr King described the emotional moment he was reunited with Ashya, saying: 'I was hugging him. I could feel the pain inside him.

'I said, "Ashya I'm here now. I'm never going to leave you. I'm so sorry for what happened but we're here. We're going to be together forever. You don't have to cry any more.'

Ashya has now begun treatment and the NHS has agreed to pay for his proton beam therapy in the Czech Republic, meaning public donations can be used to help other children.

Doctors in Prague say his type of brain tumour has a 70 to 80 per cent survival rate and hope he will make a full recovery.

While delighted by his progress, his parents said their enforced separation had 'scarred' the five-year-old, who now howls in protest if either of them steps away from his bedside.

Southampton General Hospital has denied that its doctors ever threatened to seek a court order to remove the Kings' rights to make decisions about Ashya's care.

It has defended its decision to recommend standard radiotherapy and chemotherapy and said its treatment plan for Ashya complied with NHS best practice guidelines for cancer care.

Despite repeated efforts, nobody at Southampton General Hospital was available for comment last night.