Sally Roberts hit the headlines last year when she ‘kidnapped’ her son Neon and opposed a course of radiotherapy for his brain cancer. The media created a storm around this story, painting her as an irresponsible mother who was willing to risk her son’s life on a course alternative treatment. Many of her arguments were dismissed by the public’s western medicine mentality. Did she have a point? Was her story as outrageous as the media suggested and did she really kidnap her son? Surely there was more to her story. Channel Four’s Cutting Edge documentary, You’re Killing My Son: Mum on the Run, attempted to lift the lid on what was going on.
Last October Neon Roberts was rushed into hospital and underwent a 9 hour operation to remove his brain cancer. The doctors then advised that another operation was necessary and Sally questioned this. The NHS became impatient and took her to court, where the court removed the need for her consent in order for the operation to go ahead. Despite being cancer free, a course of radiotherapy was recommended and this time Sally took the NHS to court. In short, she opposed this method because of the nasty side effects and she felt it was unnecessary as other less harmful treatments were available.
Her treatment of choice, Proton Therapy, is due to become available on the NHS in 2017, but it is currently not offered, due to the Cancer Act 1979 only allowing certain courses of treatment. Proton Therapy is as effective as radiotherapy and there are a lot less side effects. Clearly Sally had a point; however the court decided that it was in the best interests of Neon for the radiotherapy to go ahead. Custody was given to Neon’s father, Ben, for the duration of his treatment.
The documentary gave a behind the scenes insight into their daily lives and gave an opportunity for all the parties involved to share their opinions. It certainly showed that Sally was not irresponsible; she did in fact have many valid points and she raised some very interesting arguments. She introduced the viewer to scaremongering tactics of the NHS, which was reinforced by the blind compliance of Neon’s father, and she also raised the issue of autonomy within the healthcare system.
However, at times she was portrayed as having the wrong view and her arguments were not explored fully or given any proper merit. The viewer also saw the ups and downs, the battles and routines within a family where a child has cancer. The documentary shed some light on the real story but it could have done a lot more to explore and explain Sally Robert’s point of view. Channel Four must be commended for giving it a go, however they should do a more in depth series exploring Sally’s valid concerns to make up for the failings of this documentary.
Catch up on Cutting Edge documentaries here.