Father Who Refuses to Give Daughter HIV Drugs Returns to United Kingdom, Has Custody of Child
The unnamed British man who has refused to give his HIV-positive three-year-old daughter antiretroviral drugs returned yesterday to the United Kingdom with the girl yesterday after an Australian court last week ruled that returning there would be in the child's best interest, BBC News reports (BBC News, 5/8). The child and her parents left the United Kingdom in 1999 after British courts ordered an HIV test for the then-four-month-old girl. The girl's mother had been diagnosed with HIV, but she had ignored doctors' advice to take antiretroviral drugs and to abstain from breastfeeding to reduce the odds of transmitting the virus to her child. After the woman died last fall, Australian officials tested the child for HIV and, when the test came back positive, the courts ordered that the girl be taken into temporary custody while the state began proceedings to compel her father to give the girl antiretroviral treatment. Australian authorities last week took custody of the child and apprehended her father in Sydney after he violated a court order that barred him from leaving Victoria, where the pair had been living (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 5/3).
Next Steps Unclear
The pair's arrival in the United Kingdom is a "legal victory" for the man, who has vowed to continue to fight authorities who want the girl to receive treatment (BBC News, 5/8). It was not clear what action, if any, British authorities will take now that the pair has returned to the United Kingdom. The man has said that he plans to file an application with the European Court of Human Rights contending that the original 1999 British court order "breached his right to family life," and he intends to file a harassment complaint if the British government tries to force him to give his daughter, who he describes to be in "good health," antiretroviral medications (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 5/3). The man said he hoped that he and his daughter could "settle down and start a new life" now that they are back in the United Kingdom (Butcher, Age, 5/8). Although British law recognizes parents' right to make decisions regarding their children's medical treatment, courts also have the right to declare that children are "medically neglected" and to order treatment for them. "A parent makes decisions for a child on the hypothesis that they are the best guardian for the child's interests, but if it's demonstrated that this is not the case, then they have no role," John Harris, professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester, said (Cantacuzino, Guardian, 5/8).