As people around the world look on in horror at the treatment of baby Alfie Evans, a few points worthy of reflection.
There are times doctors must make difficult decisions and extraordinary care needs to be withdrawn from a patient. This would include things like medicine and machines that enable lungs and heart to function. What is never acceptable, according to Catholic teaching, is withdrawal of ordinary care (food, water and oxygen) because at this point you shift from allowing natural death to enforcing unnatural death, eg.. EUTHANASIA. Alfie has not been fed for over 20 hours.
The time to remove extraordinary care is when somebody is already in the process of dying. That is to say they would die even if given ordinary care. Alfie Evans was NOT in the process of dying when food, water and oxygen were withdrawn. He could easily have been handed to another medical team and, thanks to the Vatican, that team was/is ready and waiting to help. That this has been refused cannot be said to be ‘in Alfie’s best interest’ when your ‘best interest’ for him is death by starvation and dehydration.
The medical staff are today claiming victim status and telling reporters they feel threatened. This is profoundly ironic given that the same authorities placed a police cordon around Alfie’s hospital bed and threatened his parents with taser should they take their child out of the room. If people are angry at the manner in which Alfie has been treated then the state needs to reflect on why that might be. Zero sympathy in these quarters given how the family have been treated.
Pride is a sin. Undoubtedly the medical staff never planned for this situation to arise. But it has blown into a global incident because people can see an obvious refusal to admit mistake and a desire to enforce power of state over the family. Whatever happened to doctors advise and parents decide? It strikes me a proud judge, a proud medical team coupled with a poor regard for the sanctity of life due to cultural attitudes lies behind much that is going wrong here.
The decision to remove food, water and oxygen was taken on the assurance Alfie would only survive minutes without breathing tube. When he survived an entire night without it that was the time for the authorities to apologise and review. Instead they pressed ahead and it now feels, rightly or wrongly, as if they are desperate for him to die to prove them right.
This blog has long warned of the danger of creeping liberal totalitarianism in the West. One in which the State claims for itself powers and privileges rightly belonging to our families. Here we see that write large. First they came for Alfie… How will we defend the rights of the family? It is a pressing concern for us all.