24Apr

Alfie Evans needs protection

Alfie Evans is a child who, following a seizure in 2016, has been on life support at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool due to an undiagnosed degenerative illness. In recent months the doctors treating Alfie, believing his condition incurable, wanted to bring his life to an end. A decision which brought them into sharp conflict with his parents who want him to be given every chance, not least as he is not in pain and still partially responsive. The photograph above was taken yesterday.

When Alfie’s parents decided to move their son to a Catholic hospital in Rome (pro-life rather than part of a culture of death) the conflict between State and family took a sinister turn. Using a law that enables the State to overthrow parental rights when deemed “in the best interests of a child”- police were sent to stop the family leaving hospital with Alfie. A seemingly callous decision that scandalised people throughout the world. Since then the authorities have remained bullish in maintaining their stance that Alfie should not be moved to another hospital. What gives them that right?

The saga took a dramatic twist last night when the Italian government, at the Pope’s behest, granted Alfie citizenship to enable him to be transferred to the Vatican hospital against the wish of the State. Pope Francis tweeted support asking that the needs of parents be considered and met. Instead, at 9pm, a judge ruled that Alfie’s breathing tube be removed and medical assistance withdrawn. His death would have been instantaneous had the hospital been granted its initial preference to use a chemical cosh to euthanise. Fortunately they lost that bid at an earlier hearing and so Alfie was left with his parents overnight to let nature take its course.

Since then a minor miracle has occurred. As of this morning, against all odds and the assurances of the medics, Alfie continues to breathe unaided. He is being held skin to skin by his mother and father, who have proved heroic in fighting his cause. The family hope to launch a fresh appeal when the courts re-open enabling his transfer to go ahead. They ask for the prayers of the Catholic community.

It is important to recognise that ethical situations like these are notoriously tricky. Our doctors and nurses work hard to help people and have to make lots of very difficult decisions. They have to work to economic constraints whilst also striving to bring comfort and care to the sick. Nevertheless the following questions gnaw at me

 

  • What is the justification here for the family being sidelined by the State? When did our children become their possession? This blog has long warned that the break down of the family and rise of Big State is a dire threat to personal liberty and the home. This proves that point.
  • How can it be argued that death is ‘in the best interest’ of Alfie given the he remains comfortable and alive when given life support? How can any long term decisions be made given that his illness is undiagnosed?
  • What reason is there for not enabling the transfer to Rome? The cost is being met by others? I do wonder if the decision to end his life was partially economic and the authorities are uneasy about the implications should Alfie do well.
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3 thoughts on “Alfie Evans needs protection

  1. Couple of falsehoods here:

    The condition is not ‘undiagnosed’ – that is deeply misleading. It is a group of signs and symptoms which denote a syndrome that hasn’t been previously recognised or reported. That isn’t ‘undiagnosed’, it simply means it’s rare.

    You put best interests of the child behind the interests of the parents in your argument. Children are ends in themselves, not means. It is entirely possible that the parents are blinded by deep sadness and desperation – entirely reasonably so. That is why we have a Court of Protection.

    There is no way to say to that this poor child is either comfortable or not.

    From what I understand, this child is not responsive and has a severe brain condition that is rapidly degenerative. The sensory ability of this child may well now be zero.

    Transport and movement of a child who requires artificial respiratory support likely carries significant risk of morbidity, mortality and discomfort (though I don’t know the specifics that would be required in this case, and nor would anyone apart from those directly involved).

    The cost of treatment is not something that front-line medical staff consider.

    On your Facebook page, you have explicitly referred to ‘British medical practitioners who would euthanise an undiagnosed child’. Removing artificial life support from a child who cannot in the short to medium term breathe spontaneously is not ending someone’s life. It is allowing a natural death.

    For reasons of clarity and professionalism, I should state that I’m a doctor, an academic with an research interest in childhood (Type 1) diabetes, and lecture medical ethics, biochemistry, genetics, physiology and reproductive physiology to undergraduate medical students. I am also a committed Christian.

    I would respectfully ask people like Fr Ed to focus on the facts and avoid ideological warfare on issues like this.

    1. You make some fair points and I respect your voice as a doctor but
      1 Alfie is on the pathway – that is not a natural death but a death caused by withdrawal of food and water.
      2. How is death in the best interest of the child? If we say suffering is reason for death we soon euthanise many crippled people who despite suffering live lives worthy of respect and love

      And the thing that is really getting to me is the refusal to let him leave for Rome – you neglect to mention health professionals are ready and willing to take him who clearly have a different view than you on his suitability to travel/ or do you question their professionalism?

  2. Fr Ed,

    Please read more widely to get a full picture of the situation.

    You speak about protection – the police are there to protect nursing staff and doctors – they have been subjected to a daily torrent of abuse and even death threats.

    Alfies Army has forced road closures in the area around the hospital.

    The main entrance is below palliative and intensive care. Young patients have been disturbed by constant chanting and honking of horns.

    Admissions to accident and emergency have been restricted.

    Nursing staff have been unable to get into work.

    Parents visiting terminally ill children have had abuse shouted at them.

    At one stage Alfies Army has stormed the hospital.

    The situation is very sad but the behavior of some family members leaves a lot to be desired.

    The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales has defended the hospital

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