British court denies parents' appeal to save toddler's life support

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Alfie Evans. Courtesy of Alfie's Army Facebook.

On Tuesday, London’s Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s decision to end life support for an ill 21-month-old boy, despite the parent’s wishes to continue treatment.

Justice Anthony Hayden of the High Court ordered last month that life support could be removed from Alfie Evans, who is stationed at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. Hayden said that “continued ventilatory support is no longer in Alfie’s interests.”

Alfie is in a “semi-vegetable state” due to an unknown neurological degenerative condition. His parents want to transfer him to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome, to receive further diagnosis and treatment.

However, the Liverpool hospital where Alfie is currently said it considered further treatment to be “futile.”

“Our aim is always to try and reach an agreement with parents about the most appropriate care plan for their child. Unfortunately there are sometimes rare situations such as this where agreement cannot be reached and the treating team believe that continued active treatment is not in a child's best interests,” said the hospital.  

Justice Eleanor King was one of the three judges who denied the appeal on March 6 and agreed with the High Court’s previous decision.

Justice Hayden “could not have done more to ensure the father and mother had every opportunity to express their views and have them taken into consideration,” she said, according to BBC.

She said the evidence showed that the child was “deeply comatose” and “to all intents and purposes unaware of his surroundings.”

Justice King applauded Tom Evans’ passionate “fight on with Alfie’s army,” but said the father had “no clear plan.”

Evans said afterward that he would challenge the case before the Supreme Court.

"At this moment, Alfie's not ready so we're not ready to let go," he said, according to the BBC.

Head of Alfie’s parents’ legal team, Barrister Stephen Knafler QC, said the state’s decision wrongly hinders “parental choice.”

The court ruling echoes a similar case last year, when England’s courts ordered Charlie Gard to be taken off life support.

At 11 months old, Gard died in July 2017 after a months-long debate regarding his parents’ right to pursue further treatment. The parents had fundraised over $1.6 million to seek experimental treatments and had received offers from European and U.S. hospitals. However, courts rejected the request to transfer him for experimental therapy.

The case drew widespread attention and outcry. Dr. Melissa Moschella, a Catholic University of America philosophy professor, disagreed with the court’s decision, telling EWTN News that the United Nations “clearly indicates that the parents, not the state will have primarily responsibility.”

 “It seems to me completely wrongheaded that the state should be stepping in here when the decision that the parents are making is really aimed at the best interests of the child,” Moschella said in 2017.

“It’s not crazy, it’s not abusive, it’s not neglectful. It’s the decision of parents who want to, however they can, to give their very sick child a chance for life.”

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