Life Matters Media
Quality of life at the end of life

BREAKING: Parents Of Dying U.K. Toddler Lose New Legal Bid

BY DANIEL GAITAN | daniel@lifemattersmedia.org 

Alfie Evans via “Alfie’s Army”

The parents of dying British toddler Alfie Evans lost their court appeal Wednesday against a ruling preventing them from traveling to another nation for treatment.

The ruling comes amidst high-profile interventions from the Italian government and the Roman Catholic Church, Agence-France Presse reports. Pope Francis has been praying for the child — and tweeting about him to his millions of followers.

Alfie, who turns 2 next month, suffers from a rare and incurable neurological disease that doctors said severely damaged his brain. Although the child had his ventilator removed earlier this week, he has continued breathing without it.

On Wednesday, three judges in London’s Court of Appeal upheld the Family Division of the High Court’s Tuesday ruling that Alfie could be taken home from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, England, but could not be taken to Vatican City in Rome for additional treatments.

Lord Justice McFarlane, who lead the appeal court panel, said Alfie’s parents were trying to take “one last chance” with little chance of success.

The boy’s doctors said he cannot be healed and would likely face unnecessary suffering in Italy. The hospital recommended active treatments end.

However, parents Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, of Liverpool, strongly disagree and are demanding his transfer.

Even though Italy offered citizenship to the toddler, and an Italian ministry medical evacuation plane is on standby to fly him to Italy, British law prohibits parents from demanding treatments be continued if the burdens of such treatments outweigh the benefits.

The high-profile case sparked anger from Catholics and conservatives, some of whom have protested outside his hospital and launched social media campaigns. Hundreds of thousands of men and women across the world signed a petition in support of Alfie.

Known as “Alfie’s Army,” the protesters are concerned that British doctors are out of bounds, taking away hope from Alfie’s family.

“It’s very disappointing,” Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is representing the Evans family, told The Washington Post. “What we have here, essentially, is a situation where an air ambulance is on standby waiting to take the child and look after him. He is being denied that chance. His parents are being denied that chance. It seems inconceivable that there is no way to make that happen.”

Pope Francis spoke about the case during Sunday remarks.

“Let us pray that every sick person might always be respected in their dignity, and cared for in a manner adapted to their condition, with the concordant input of their families and loved ones, of the doctors, and of other health care workers, with great respect for life,” Francis said after mentioning “little Alfie Evans.”

Jill Gillmore, founder of United States-based Marleigh’s Ministry, a nonprofit advocating for and assisting premature and seriously ill babies and their mothers, said the latest developments left her with an “overwhelming and unsettling feeling.”

“As a mother of seven and baby health care advocate, I cannot even fathom what this young mother and father are feeling in this moment. This is truly devastating and our prayers go out to the family,” Gillmore told Life Matters Media.

In a statement, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the medical association representing the boy’s doctors, called the case “heartbreaking.”

Russell Viner, president of the medical association, said decisions to withhold or withdraw treatment “are not made lightly.”

Viner, who could not comment on the specifics of the case, offered three key sets of circumstances when withdrawing life-sustaining treatments may be considered.

  • If treatments are unable or unlikely to result in the child living much longer.
  • Where treatments may prolong life but cause unacceptable pain and suffering.
  • If an older child with a life-limiting illness repeatedly makes it clear they do not want treatments and this decision is supported by their parents and doctors.

“In difficult situations such as these, and amongst the plethora of voices and opinions, it is important that the public know how such decisions are made,” Viner added.