THE Guardian has apologised for an editorial that former Prime Minister David Cameron had only felt “privileged pain” over the death of his six-year-old son Ivan.
In his memoirs Mr Cameron praised the NHS care his son Ivan, who was born with a neurological disorder received, before he died in 2009.
Ivan, who was born with Ohtahara syndrome, died at the age of six in February 2009.
In his autobiography Mr Cameron wrote: “Nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the reality of losing your darling boy this way. It was as if the world stopped turning.”
However, in an editorial, The Guardian questioned whether the former PM “might have understood the damage his policies have done” if he had sought care for “a dying parent rather than a dying child”.
It added: “Mr Cameron has known pain and failure in his life but it has always been limited failure and privileged pain.
“His experience of the NHS, which looked after his severely disabled son, has been been that of the better functioning and better funded parts of the system.”
The Guardian initially tried to tone down the editorial removing the remarks entirely.
In a statement a spokesman said: “The original version of an editorial posted online yesterday fell far short of our standards.
“It was changed significantly within two hours, and we apologise completely.”
The editorial sparked outrage with politicians describing it as “vile” and “stomach churningly revolting”.
Chancellor Sajid Javid tweeted: “Shameful thing to read. Never has an editorial so lacked in empathy, while so righteously criticising others for lacking it.”
Tory MP Zac Goldsmith said: “These aren’t just the ugly thoughts of a maverick columnist. These are the words of the actual Guardian editorial. It is their corporate view”.
James Cleverly MP tweeted: “How could anyone think this? How could they think it OK to write this? How could an editor look at this and think it appropriate to publish this?”
Lib Dem MP Angela Smith called the comments “entirely inappropriate”, adding: “I don’t believe in the politics of class warfare…those words must have been very hurtful to David Cameron”.
Comedian Jenny Eclair wrote: ‘I am furious with David Cameron but to question his grief as the Guardian is doing is vile beyond vile – his 6 year old son died’.
Journalist Charlie Beckett wrote: “The irony of this ghastly Guardian editorial failure is that it demonstrates the lack of humanity and empathy of which it accuses Cameron.
“The logic is tortuous anyway, but the nastiness is quite breathtaking”.
What is Ohtahara syndrome?
Ohtahara syndrome is rare epileptic condition where seizures typically start before three months of age.
It affects around one in 500 epileptic sufferers and is caused by an underlying structural brain abnormality.
This can be caused by brain damage before and around the time of birth, or it can be passed on in the genes.
The seizures are often resistant to medicine, and babies will often have little developmental progress.
Many sufferers die before the age of two from complications such as repeated chest infections.
Those who survive are typically severely disabled and will experience continued seizures even with treatment.
Mr Cameron had been an MP for less than a year when Ivan was born in 2002, and became prime minister the year after his son died.
Ivan suffered from severe epilepsy and was unable to move or to communicate.
Mr Cameron wrote: “He could have 20 or 30 [seizures] in a day, lasting for minutes, or sometimes hours, his small frame racked with spasms and what looked like searing pain,” Mr Cameron writes.
“By the end his clothes would be drenched in sweat and his poor little body exhausted.”
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He added: “When you watch your tiny baby undergoing multiple blood tests, your heart aches. When they bend him back into the foetal position to remove fluid from the base of his spine with a long, threatening-looking needle, it almost breaks”.
Mr Cameron also paid tribute in his memoirs to “the extraordinary compassion in our health service” and “the best of the NHS” who helped look after his son.
Reflecting on his experience helping care for Ivan, the former Tory leader said: “A world in which things had always gone right for me suddenly gave me an immense shock and challenge.”