Death Panels: Court Orders Sick Toddler Killed Despite Parents’ Desperate Pleas
by Joshua Gill
A U.K. court upheld an earlier ruling Tuesday ordering a toddler to be taken off life support despite his parents’ desire to continue treating him.
London’s Court of Appeal denied the parents’ request to transfer their son, 21-month-old Alfie Evans, to the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital. The appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that sided with doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, who say that continued treatment is “futile,” according to Crux Now.
Evans suffers from an unknown neurological degenerative condition that has reduced him to what the hospital has called a “semi-vegetable state,” but his parents argue that he is still responsive and say they will continue to fight for him to be treated.
“At this moment, Alfie’s not ready so we’re not ready to let go,” Tom Evans, the boy’s father, told the BBC. Tom said that he would challenge the ruling before the U.K.’s Supreme Court.
The case bears similarities to the 2017 legal battle over treatment for Charlie Gard, who died at 11 months old after U.K. courts continually deliberated and denied him the option to receive treatment. Then as now, the hospital officials overseeing the treatment of the child have argued that attempting to treat him would be against the child’s best interest — a conclusion that Alfie’s parents contest.
“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,” Alder Hey Children’s Hospital said in a statement, according to Crux.
Justice Anthony Hayden of the U.K.’s High Court agreed in his Feb. 20 ruling with the hospital’s assessment that continuing to treat the Alfie was “unkind, unfair, and inhumane.” Hayden praised the efforts of Alfie’s parents but ultimately denied them the chance to medically fight for their son’s life. He said that Tom’s urging to “fight on with Alfie’s army” was commendable but that the parents’ had no clear plan for their son’s betterment. Tom, incensed by the ruling, denounced it and vowed that he would continue the fight.
“My son has been sentenced to the death penalty. The system has worked against us. I’m not crying because I know how wrong they are, I know how strong my boy is doing. He is strong, he is comfortable. This isn’t the end. This is just the start. I’m going to take this NHS down. I’m not giving up, my son isn’t giving up. No-one, I repeat, no-one in this country, is taking my boy away from me. They are not violating his rights and they are violating my rights,” Tom said after Hayden’s ruling, according to the U.K. Daily Mail.
The three judges of the appeals court, however, echoed Hayden’s reasoning Tuesday and said that the hospital had given due consideration to the parents’ wishes.
They ruled hospital staff’s decision to remove Alfie from life support and deny his transfer to another hospital was justified since Alfie is, according to their assessment, comatose and unaware of his surroundings.
The parents argue that Alfie is still aware and can still respond to them, but hospital staff say that what the parents interpret as responses are actually seizures, according to the Daily Mail.
Barrister Stephen Knafler QC, who represents Alfie’s parents against the state, argued that, regardless of the hospital’s assessment, the courts’ rulings overstep their boundaries and interfere with “parental choice,” according to Crux.
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