This story started last Sunday in the Sunday Life, but took on a powerful emphasis after being aired on the Stephen Nolan radio show. It concerns a 13 month old baby, James Hynes who is suffering from leukaemia. James’s father told listeners on Monday that all treatment had to finish as he had not responded to therapy, and he had only weeks to live. The family trawled the internet and found a doctor in Germany who was willing to perform a bone marrow transplant, even though baby James was not in remission. The family initially took to the local media for help in raising the £100,000 for the operation. In Nolan’s words, the BBC phone lines went into ‘meltdown’, and he said that they had received literally thousands of calls, texts, letters and messages from listeners willing to donate money, time or anything else that might help the family. One local listener who is originally from Germany offered her services as interperter and was very helpful to the family.
The upshot of the enormous public response was described by Nolan as a U-turn by the local Health Board who announced this morning that they had re-considered the case and were arranging an air ambulance to take the child to Germany for surgery and would be paying for the operation.
While I am certain that this was the most excellent news for this particular family, it is quite scary to think that it takes this level of people power to have care provided. If it is right to provide the transplant now, was it right when they decided against it last week? I think that there are major moral and ethical questions raised by this story that have yet to be aired and answered.
The scenario, as described by James Sr is certainly stark:
“The German doctor says there is between a 20pc and 30pc chance that the operation will be successful. But at least that’s some hope – we just have to try. The doctors here have told us a transplant operation could kill James. But what’s the alternative? Just leave him to die and try nothing?”