18 Feb 2015

How I lost my daughter after taking her abroad for treatment

Scotland Correspondent

Mary Kidson was cleared last year of poisoning her daughter after taking her to Belgium for medical treatment – but despite the landmark ruling they have yet to be reunited. Ciaran Jenkins met her.

I am standing with Mary Kidson in her teenage daughter’s bedroom. Everything you’d expect is here. Posters on the walls, homework on the desk, the only thing missing is the teenager.

“This is my daughter’s bedroom, it’s left exactly as it was when she was taken on 5 March 2013,” Mary tells me.

It is a date Mary says she will never forget: the day she was arrested on suspicion of poisoning her daughter with unnecessary medication; the day her daughter was taken into care.

All I got back was “everything is fine”, when clearly my daughter wasn’t fine. And that’s when I started to look outside the NHS. Mary Kidson

Mary Kidson’s troubles stem from a dispute with the NHS over her daughter’s health. Because of the legal proceedings that followed, we cannot further identify her daughter. What we can say is that she is now 16 and remains in the care of Herefordshire Council.

“What was it that you and the NHS didn’t see eye to eye about?”, I asked Mary.

‘Hormone deficiency’

“She wasn’t going into puberty, her development wasn’t normal and she was very, very tired. She couldn’t get up in the morning. She had no energy, she couldn’t partake in normal activities that other children could do.”

“All I got back was everything is fine, when clearly my daughter wasn’t fine, she was still experiencing all these symptoms. And that’s when I started to look outside the NHS.”

Mary’s not your typical poisoning suspect, but then who is?

She is 55 and runs a company offering services to children with special educational needs from her home in Ledbury, Herefordshire.

If Mary was poisoning her daughter then everyone in England, everybody in the world is poisoning himself. Dr Thierry Hertoghe

NHS doctors repeatedly assured her that her daughter was fit and healthy. Mary disagreed and took her to a Belgian hormone specialist, Dr Thierry Hertoghe.

Dr Hertoghe is a flamboyant character. He gives speeches to conferences wearing pink suits. He is president of the International Hormone Society. He diagnosed Mary’s daughter with a hormone deficiency and prescribed hormone treatment. This is a contested area of medicine, particularly in the UK.

“When the daughter came to see me, she had six years of severe fatigue. I saw a lot of deficiencies in her, not only hormones but some nutritional and I corrected them,” he tells me.

I suggest that Mary was accused of “doctor shopping”, and ask if he is the sort of doctor who tells patients what they want to hear.

“They’re often not happy with what they hear because I tell them that they not only have several deficiencies but that they have to improve their food.

“I’m absolutely not a doctor who prescribes what a patient wants me to prescribe,” he replies.

What he prescribed for Mary’s daughter, however, landed Mary in hot water.

She was charged with falsely administering drugs, causing grievous bodily harm, potentially even endangering her life.

Dr Hertoghe scoffs: “If Mary was poisoning her daughter then everyone in England, everybody in the world is poisoning himself. All medicines if given an overdose could do some harm. If you drink a 100 litres of water a day in a few days you might actually die from it.”

Dr Hertoghe is scathing of the NHS and attitudes he says “exist only in England”.

Ashya King

There are echoes here of the case of Ashya King, whose parents were the subject of an European arrest warrant after they fled an NHS hospital. Five-year-old Aysha eventually received alternative treatment in the Czech Republic.

Mary’s experience was even more drawn out.

She eventually stood trial in October 2014. The judge threw out the case against her. But not before Mary had spent six months in jail, for breaching her bail by keeping in touch with her daughter.

Do you think you’ve been punished for going outside the NHS, I ask her?

Broken hearted doesn’t describe it. It’s worse than that Mary Kidson

“Absolutely, they seem to have taken great offence to that. And that is something I don’t understand. As an adult you can do that, but as a child there seems to be a complete monopoly on a child’s care,” she says.

It’s now more than three months since the trial collapsed and Mary has still not been reunited with her daughter.

“Broken hearted doesn’t describe it. It’s worse than that,” Mary tells me. “It’s nonsense, it’s just unbelievable, a totally crazy situation.”

At the time of publication, Wye Valley NHS Trust had not responded to our request for a comment.

A Herefordshire Council spokesman said “decisions on placing a child in care and ending a period of care are taken by the family court, not the council.”

“The family court reaches its decisions after considering evidence presented by a range of experts and interested parties, including parents and the young person involved.”

“Contact arrangements are also determined by the court, with the council implementing them with the family. Contact arrangements are regularly reviewed to meet the needs of the young person and their family. Through those reviews, changes are made.”

“We continue to work with both parents and the young person to plan for the future.

“Our duty in such cases is to the young person who has been placed into our care.”