Trust row puts Megan’s care in US under threat

THE treatment of a Cork toddler undergoing lifesaving chemotherapy for a rare brain tumour in New York could be jeopardised if her family’s living expenses are not met and they become a financial burden on the US.

The parents of three-and-a-half-year-old Megan Malone, from Kilnamartyra in Co Cork, have claimed they have not been reimbursed for living expenses incurred since January even though a trust was established to administer charitable donations for this purpose.

As Megan prepares to commence her most severe round of chemotherapy treatment yet at New York’s Presbyterian Hospital, her parent’s John and Sheila have been told her treatment could be stopped and she and her family sent home to Ireland if they become a financial burden on the US. The family are not entitled to work while in the US.

About €180,000 has been contributed to the Megan Malone Trust by the people of Ireland. However, after a row with the family, the board of trustees stood down last month. John and Sheila Malone had requested that the board, which included a sister of John’s, step down after they said they were disappointed at the manner in which the fund was being administered.

Mr Malone claimed while the board honoured some expenses, the trustees refused to reimburse them for others that they claimed were “reasonable living expenses”. Those expenses have not been returned to the family for re-evaluation.

“We have no financial support here in New York and no access to the money in the fund, which we understand to be around €180,000. We have not been reimbursed for any of our expenses accrued since the 21st of January,” John Malone said yesterday.

While three new trustees are waiting to take over administering the fund, the former trustees, who stepped down last month, have not removed themselves as signatories for the funds. When the Malones contacted Ulster Bank in Ballincollig, Co Cork, this week, they were told that the old board of trustees were still listed as signatories despite a commitment to resolve the matter last week.

In February, the trustees were sent an email from staff at the New York hospital stating: “Megan’s parents are not authorised under United States law to work and their stay and treatment is 100% contingent upon the complete financial support that the family has. Their legal immigration status, and consequently Megan’s ability to stay in the United States for treatment, will be placed in jeopardy if they become a financial burden to the US.”

According to the Malones, the trustees sent an email to the fundraising committee on March 23 stating: “In the light of the negative publicity concerning the Megan Malone Trust, we wish to inform you of our decision to step down as trustees with immediate effect. We will hand over all documentation in our possession relating to the trust and will remove ourselves as signatories from the trust account.”

Mr Malone said: “The receipts for expenses, which the trustees have refused to cover, and all of which, to the best of our knowledge are ‘reasonable living expenses’, have not been returned to us for evaluation. The last communication we received from any one of the Board of Trustees was received over five weeks ago on the 10th of March and it contained very personal and hurtful comments about us as people and as parents.”

As soon as the trustees write to the bank to have their names removed as signatories on the account, Ulster Bank has agreed the new trustees can then become signatories.

Megan is receiving treatment in New York after she was diagnosed last October with a rare cancerous brain tumour. She was given a 5% chance of survival by doctors in Ireland. However, her family was told last week that the cancer in her brain has disappeared while it also appears that her spine has cleared. Megan will continue to undergo treatment in New York for several months yet, however.

Before stepping down, a spokesperson for the trust said: “The trustees are disappointed that the relationship between them and John and Sheila Malone has deteriorated. The breakdown of the relationship has resulted from a different interpretation of how the funds, raised by hundreds of people to support Megan and her family during this difficult time, should be dispersed.

“The role of a trustee is to ensure that the funds are being spent in an appropriate manner in keeping with the objectives of the trust. All decisions made by the trustees have been informed by this requirement.”

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