A father who is denying his 10-year-old daughter chemotherapy in favour of natural medicine believes the girl has a better chance of surviving cancer because alternative treatments cured her asthma eight years ago.
Supreme Court transcripts obtained by The West Australian reveal Trevor Stitt's faith in alternative therapy is based on his belief that it cured his daughter Tamar's asthma when she was two years old.
Read the court transcript
Mr Stitt told the court his daughter had not had an asthma attack since natural remedies were used in favour of the "chemical" treatments offered by Princess Margaret Hospital.
The eczema his nine-year-old son Jacob suffered as a baby had also never returned after alternative medicine was used instead of a steroid treatment prescribed by the hospital.
The revelations about the Stitt family's views came after hospital chiefs dropped a court application on Wednesday to force Tamar to have potentially lifesaving chemotherapy.
Tamar, who has had liver and stomach cancer for several months, flew to El Salvador with her mother Arely on Tuesday to continue the natural therapy her parents claimed was working.
Princess Margaret Hospital officials yesterday defended their decision to take the matter to the Supreme Court, arguing doctors believed chemotherapy offered the best chance of a cure for the girl and it needed to be started as soon as possible.
The Australian Medical Association in WA was critical of the family's decision to take Tamar overseas without waiting for a legal ruling, saying it had denied the girl the right to have the courts look at the evidence and decide what was in her best interests.
But the Cancer Support Association of WA said that for some cancers the success rate from chemotherapy was poor.
Mr Stitt, an anaesthetic technician at St John of God Hospital in Murdoch, told the court that WA had the finest medical institutions in the world and he would "humbly" let his daughter be treated by PMH staff if natural therapy failed to cure her.
The court documents reveal Tamar's parents ensured she left Australia to avoid any potential court order that she be treated at PMH.
Chief Justice Wayne Martin told the court he would have almost certainly ordered that Tamar be treated against her parent's wishes had she not left the country and it was in the child's best interests that she returned to Australia. "Had the child been here, notwithstanding Mr Stitt's views, I would have been inclined to make the orders," Justice Martin told the court.
"I could enunciate that now but then going on to make the orders just seems to be futile and possibly counterproductive because it might discourage her return to Australia."
In arguing his case, Mr Stitt told the court that he and his wife were Christians who were open and honest with their children. He said he had been brought up on conventional medicine and had worked in the medical profession for 20 years after training at London's famed Guy's Hospital.
He said he had seen an improvement in his daughter's health since she started natural therapy, which was being administered by his wife and mother-in-law.
The court heard Tamar was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago when doctors discovered a growth on the right side of her liver. The family was later told it may have also spread to her lungs.
"She initially was losing weight. She has no longer lost weight, she has gained weight," Mr Stitt said. "She is eating again. She has got colour to her cheeks and she's no longer in pain.
"She's pinked up, she's enthusiastic to go overseas. She is not a fool by any means. She is 10 years old. She is aware what's going on."
Mr Stitt said Tamar's doctor Angela Alessandri had told him there was a 30 per cent chance that chemotherapy would be successful. Tamar would have also lost her hair and suffered other side effects. It is understood Dr Alessandri later told Mr and Mrs Stitt the chance of survival with chemotherapy was closer to 50-60 per cent but she was likely to die without it.
Mr Stitt told Channel 9's A Current Affair last night that he realised when Tamar left for El Salvador that it could be the last time he saw her alive.
He said: "I took her aside before we left to go to the airport and I said, 'My darling, this may be the last time we see you'. She said, 'I know that, Dad'."
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