A British appeals court is upholding a ruling allowing a sick toddler to die.
Alfie Evans is the 21-month-old son of Catholic parents Tom Evans and Kate James. He is fighting a mysterious illness that has left him in a coma and unable to breathe on his own. Evans and James have been battling for several months with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool and the British courts to release their son for treatment. They would like Alfie’s treatment to continue and hope to fly him to Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital in Rome. Barring that, they claim there are treatments in Hamburg they could try before allowing him to die.
The hospital is refusing to release the boy into their care, instead insisting that Alfie’s breathing assistance be shut off. Taking the case to court in February, the judge ruled for the hospital. The parents appealed the decision, claiming that it was essentially the “death penalty.”
On Tuesday, after a hearing where Evans and James were only allowed to listen via teleconference, a panel of three judges upheld the earlier ruling by Justice Hayden to remove Alfie’s life support.
Earlier, Evans and James had petitioned the lower court to move Alfie to a hospital in Europe to receive treatment outlined by Matthias Hubner, a doctor based in Munich, Germany. Hayden ruled in February that Alfie’s life support should be turned off, causing Evans to lash out against the injustice outside the courthouse.
Evans decried the ruling, saying it was a violation of Alfie’s rights: “My son is two years of age and he’s been sentenced to the death penalty,” Evans said, asking, “Why do they want my son dead so quickly?”
In Hayden’s verdict, he blasted Hubner for going to the hospital posing as a family friend to evaluate Alfie. “[H]e has failed the parents, the court but most importantly, Alfie,” the judge said.
Hayden went on to claim that “every reasonable option” has been made in Alfie’s care. He also quoted extensively from Pope Francis’ open letter to the Pontifical Academy for Life regarding the similar case of Charlie Gard, even using it to justify turning off Alfie’s life support.
While Hayden recognized the Catholic faith of Evans and James, he said, “The position of the Roman Catholic Church is sometimes characterized inaccurately in cases concerning these difficult ethical questions.”
To this day Alfie remains undiagnosed. The doctor’s opinion contained in Hayden’s ruling noted that the problems in Alfie’s brain are “unexplained.” He ruled out the same condition that Charlie Gard was diagnosed with but never actually diagnosed Alfie’s condition, saying, “The appearances were not typical for any specific disorder.”
Alfie was born healthy in May 2016, but by the time he was four months old, it was clear something was wrong owing to the number of critical developmental milestones he had missed. In December of the same year, Alfie contracted a chest infection and was hospitalized after having seizures. He has remained on life support in the hospital ever since.
Evans and James are insistent Alfie is responsive, and Alfie’s aunt, Sarah Evans, posted three videos on Facebook showing Alfie sucking on his pacifier and responding to his mother’s touch.