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Father: Sick UK child surviving after life support withdrawn

Thomas Evans, father of terminally ill toddler Alfie, attends Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 18, 2018. Britain's Court of Appeal ruled against the 23-month-old toddler's parents, who sought permission to take him to Italy for medical treatment that lower U.K. courts blocked in favor of suspending life support. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

LONDON (AP) — The father of a terminally ill British toddler said the child is surviving after being taken off life support, surprising doctors who had argued he should be allowed to die.

Tom Evans said that his 23-month-old son, Alfie, survived for six hours with no assistance and that doctors are now providing oxygen and hydration.

“He’s now on oxygen,” Evans said. “It’s not changing his breathing but it’s oxygenating his body.”

Alfie is in a “semivegetative state” as a result of a degenerative neurological condition doctors have been unable to identify. He was taken off life support after a series of court rulings backed doctors who said further treatment was futile.

Alfie’s parents, Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, want to take him to the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital. Doctors at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital believe that would not be in the toddler’s best interests, and British courts have agreed.

The case has drawn the attention of Pope Francis, who during a Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square this month offered prayers for Alfie and others who are suffering from serious infirmities. Francis has made appeals for the boy to be kept alive, saying only God can decide who dies.

The head of the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital said the Italian defense ministry had a plane ready to transport Alfie to Italy if he were allowed. In an interview with Italian Radio 24, Mariella Enoc, who traveled to Liverpool to try to intervene on behalf of the parents, said she spoke to the Italian ambassador in London, who said the plane could leave with him in a matter of minutes.

On Monday, the Italian foreign ministry announced it had granted Alfie Italian citizenship to facilitate his arrival and transport.

The hospital said it would not be offering a running commentary on the child’s condition.

“This is our normal and agreed practice with all our patients,” the hospital said in a statement.

(Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield contributed to this story from Rome.)

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Danica Kirka

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  • Arrogant nonsense.

    On what basis do you think you know better than the trained legal and medical minds that have anguished over this child?

    All people, everywhere, including those unable to give consent to their treatment deserve care and morally-weighed treatment.

    The notion that a child belongs to parents who can dictate its care is recognised as being flawed since human emotion is not always compatible with the interests of others.

    The UK has formal procedures designed to prevent unnecessary suffering. You may not like them but, fortunately, if you are a non-UK citizen, your opinion is irrelevant. If you are a UK citizen you have a vote and can make your opinion known via your representatives and on social media.

    Unless you have knowledge that can add to the deliberations regarding Alfie’s situation – butt out.

    If your outrage is based on the ridiculous idea that there is a loving god who wants Alfie’s situation to continue I suggest you man up and accept that your God

    a) – knows more about it than you
    b) – could have prevented it and chose not to do so

    Instead of venting your ignorant opinion try getting the god who (you think) can mend Alfie to do so – so far he’s turned a deaf ear to everyone else’s entreaties.

  • The boy survived for 6 hours without life support, then the drs had to put him back on. Why don’t they show the parents a brain scan? Wouldn’t that show how badly damaged the childs brain is? AND put an end to all the fuss.

  • Parents have a natural right to protect their offspring: The notion that a child belongs to the UK Government which can dictate HIS (not “it’s”) care is recognised as being flawed since…well, it wants to take him off life support. Even if it is futile, why are so many resources being used to make sure his parrents can’t try?

  • This is a desperate and consciously deceptive Vatican PR stunt to get the ” uninformed gullible ” to resume their donations to Bambino Gesu Hospital – the blatantly corrupt Vatican owned and controlled profit center, with ZERO regard as to how much money is embezzled or otherwise misused, as with the $500,000 stolen to renovate Sec State Cardinal Tarsisio Bertone’s cavernous, opulently luxurious appt in Rome.

    “A scandal like this really plays to the stereotype of out-of-touch,
    arrogant cardinals growing fat on the wealth of the church,”….
    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bambino-gesu-hospital-vatican-trial-embezzlement-cardinal-tarcisio-bertone/

    The AP investigated and found the profit-motive taking precedent over care for the sick children.
    https://www.apnews.com/9a0647481aee487e99c9b3facf6c6691

  • The consensus that brain scans, and brain activity, are reliable for making life and death determinations is slowly deteriorating.

  • Trained medical minds would have advised blood letting the child not that very long ago.

    Trained legal minds would have advised leaving the child to die on a mountain in pagan Greece.

    The child’s family should be driving this bus, not some selection of experts in a socialized medical system.

  • This case illustrates a fundamental difference between the UK and the USA, nearly all-powerful nanny state versus the people possess the rights.

  • Why are Christians so freakin’ terrified of death? Why is it that they are happy to (let other people) suffer needlessly to temporarily postpone a clearly imminent death?

    Evangelicals lie in a lot of ways. But their fear of death confirms that deep down, they know they are lying to themselves and everyone else.

  • You think that a natural instinct for survival is a “fear of death?”
    I’ll never understand this deep-seeded hatred of religion, especially in a land where you have the complete freedom to simply ignore it. But what’s more puzzling is the amount of energy spent on letting others know how much you hate. Talk about a deteriorating quality of life…

  • Thanks for the honest comment. Scans with Alzheimers patients show where damage has occurred but I guess those are done with asking the patient to respond to stimuli–questions, sounds, images. AND in the case with the boy he isn’t able to respond so a straight xray orMRI image might not show much.

  • Yes, humans have a natural instinct for survival. But we also have brains.

    This was a honest question. When a person is clearly facing imminent death, some christians insist that we must eke out every second of life out no matter how much pain or trauma results. Why? Seriously.

    When the choices are A. “Die peacefully in April without pain and surrounded by family” and B. “Die in May or June in extreme pain surrounded by EMTs and wailing sirens.” why do so many christians insist that other people not be allowed to choose option A.

    I truly do not understand.

  • We tend to “eke out” life because we value it. It is a gift – regardless of its current state or how others view it. This belief stems from the civility that is practiced in the West thanks in large part to Judeo-Christian philosophy.
    However, in addition to life, you were given free will. Ending your life prematurely is your business. There’s no need to ridicule others for not doing the same. It’s alright to not understand.

  • “Ending your life prematurely is your business. There’s no need to ridicule others for not doing the same.”

    Yet many, including the Catholic Church, feel it is their business as well. That is the real issue here.

  • Wrong

    The court’s job is to weigh the rights of both the child and the parents and determine what is in the best interests of the child.

    If US law does not, as you imply, value the child’s rights that indicates a lack of compassion within the system.

  • You misunderstand.

    Parents have, one would hope, a natural desire to protect their offspring – that does not translate into a right which transcends the rights of others – if it did then every parent would have the right to commit violent crime to, say, release their child from lawful detention.

    Their is NO implication that the child BELONGS to the UK government – any attempt to represent the situation in such a way is wrong and either mistaken or deliberately false.

    In the UK the child, as well as the parent(s), has rights. The court’s job is to make the terrible decision as to which takes primacy. In this case, the courts have taken expert testimony and heard from the parents. There is no question but that the child has no future – its brain is progressively useless. The court has ruled that the compassionate way to respect the child is to cease artificial prolongation of its life.

    The stare is not using resources to ensure the parents can’t try – (there is no try – the Italian offer is for palliative care only) it is defending the right of the child to be respected with dignity.

    The only possible way that the child could live a meaningful life is through a miracle – a suspension of the laws of nature.

    1 – they don’t happen.
    2 – the time for the miracle was when the child was in the womb
    3 – if a deity waits through so much anguish, despair and desperation and still hasn’t responded it a) is not a deity worth respecting and b) is unlikely to suddenly get an understanding as to what “compassion” means.

  • Your objection seems to be to a medical system which works for the benefit of the members of society rather than those who own it.

    That is not compassion for the child or the parents.

    Your objection, as expressed, is based on ignorance – the medical system is irrelevant – the decision is the responsibility of the legal system.

    As to “the child’s family driving the bus” – you are entitled to your opinion. It seems to indicate that you value possession of another human being above care for that human being’s welfare.

  • In general, both in the UK and the US, the overall impression is that UK courts have neither advanced the child’s rights nor the child’s best interests.

    What it appears to have done is decide that even if medical care is provided gratis outside the UK, the child should die.

  • There seems to be some question as to whether the National Health Service works for the benefit of the members of society, does the best it can with limited resources, or tries to do all the things it can that are inexpensive recognizing that dead people don’t vote.

    Your comments are based in ignorance.

  • I don’t know where you’re getting your information. It is not, so far as I can see, the overall impression in the UK – can you expand please?

    As to US media – I trust you’re not relying on the pseudo-reporting of Fox and Breitbart.

    The “medical care”, gratis or otherwise, is palliative care only – there is no expectation of any outcome other than early death.

  • I suppose the article in the Guardian about people pulling their own teeth because the National Health Service is so underserved you have to find some other solution had something to do with it.

    Or the twelve hour trolley waits in National Health Service hospitals.

    Or …

    Well, let’s just note that all is not well on the Thames.

  • I doubt you know the NHS better than I – nor criticise it with better practical knowledge than I.
    _______
    The NHS both ” works for the benefit of the members of society, (and) does the best it can with limited resources”.
    All medical systems could do more with greater resources.
    International comparisons rate the UK.s Healthcare as being much better value for money than the general level of care available in the US

    __________
    “tries to do all the things it can that are inexpensive recognizing that dead people don’t vote.”
    – displays a fundamental misunderstanding as to the way the NHS is constituted. NHS funding is provided through national government – whether or not dead people vote is not, and cannot be, the concern of the NHS. It may or may not influence government but since the NHS is used, almost exclusively by people who can vote, or by people who’s parents/children/loved ones can vote I suspect that most politicians seek to fund the NHS with those voters’ aspirations in mind.
    ____________
    “Your comments are based in ignorance”
    I spent three hours this afternoon volunteering in our local Foundation hospital – I don’t know it all but when yo wrote “ignorance” are you sure you didn’t mean “knowledge that disagrees with my preconceived bias”

  • I’m sure there are failings and shortcomings. I have no trouble getting NHS subsidised dental work and we locally occasionally make people who arrive at A&E wait several hours before we give them aspirin for their hangover – have you heard of triage?

    Remember – when people turn up at hospital they are concerned, sometimes very, very frightened. That does not necessarily mean that they have a medical emergency. Sometimes people are convinced they are more needy than they actually are.

    In my experience, personal and with relatives, when concern has been valid the response is rapid, efficient and effective. My experience is considered typical in this area – it could always be better and, as with any human endeavour, will occasionally fall short of best practice.

    Try taking the NHS away from its patients – the grumbling will change to defiant hostility and open revolt within days!

  • Okay, no problem.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-41113507

    “We couldn’t see an NHS dentist, so we pulled out our own teeth”

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/nov/16/nhs-faces-even-worse-winter-crisis-than-last-year-watchdog-warns

    The NHS was more severely overstretched in 2017-18 than it was the previous winter though the British Red Cross declared the state of UK hospitals in 2016-17 a humanitarian crisis.

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/07/hundreds-of-lung-cancer-patients-may-be-dying-early-each-year

    Lung cancer survival rates are a postcode lottery and patients in worst performing areas are dying unnecessarily.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/health-42908896

    The British Red Cross has highlighted vulnerable patients being sent home from hospital to unsuitable conditions due to lack of coordination between services. Examples are when electricity was cut off during the patient’s hospital stay.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/health-42404791

    Over 276,000 lapses in maternity care were recorded from April 2015 to March 2017, a few leading to death or permanent disability. Abigail Wood of childbirth charity NCT, said: “Maternity care is in crisis, staffing levels are dangerously low and midwives are being stretched to the
    limit.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/08/nhs-hospitals-england-worst-a-and-e-performance

    Bed occupancy is in winter 2018 at 95% though the maximum safe level is 85% to prevent spread of hard to treat infections and ensure patient safety.

    And on and on and on.

    This presents a clear picture of how trying to get something for next to nothing with a government bureaucracy works in reality.

  • I think most users will agree that more funding is needed.

    Do I assume that, since you have gone off topic, you accept that your interpretation of Alfie’s tragedy was hasty and based on incorrect views?

  • There are no odds, no-one will make that book – would you really want to live forever?

    The NHS diagnosed my cancer despite the (continuing) absence of symptoms.

    I’m four years into a care regime that will probably last 5-10 more years. Consultations, biopsy, CT scan, MRI scan, medication, regular blood tests, nursing support – cost to me? – diesel and, occasional, car parking.

  • The key to the allure of the National Health Service, the Canada Health Act, and proposals along those lines in the USA is summarized “cost to me? – diesel and, occasional, car parking”.

    I am glad your cancer was caught and arrested.

    However, patients from the UK and Canada regularly avail themselves of care in the USA because – if you have the money – it is better.

    There is simply no free lunch. Someone, or someones, pay the cost of the healthcare. Sans budget restraints the sky is the limit.

    Obviously it is a complex issue, with some pluses for access on the socialist side.

  • They don’t care about the person. It’s just exerting control over lives for its own sake. It’s all about attacking ones personhood for self aggrandizement.

  • It seems odd that so many resources (doctors, nurses, a hospital room and equipment, lawyers, many men with guns, and judges) are being used to make sure Alfie dies in the hospital… Not that this is my biggest objection…

  • Of course it has cost – I paid towards the cost of the NHS for more than forty years – statutory deductions from my wages.

    The same high quality care is available to all citizens however and the absence of a bill, even co-pay, means that bankruptcy due to health costs is, AFAIK, unknown. Add the lack of fear about how to meet possible future costs – there are, as you say, some pluses.

  • Unlike actual insurance, where if there’s enough demand any service at any quality level will be provided, and where premiums have to be sufficient to cover outlays, socialized schemes from tax revenues make political decisions.

    Typically this involves rationing, which the Guardian and BBC articles (and there are more) describe, either by limiting the supply and/or the level of services, or by schemes involving price controls, which shift costs on to providers.

    Medicare and Medicaid in the USA exhibit these problems, as does the Canadian scheme.

    The end result is that inexpensive care – hangnails – is usually adequate and very expensive care – coronary bypasses – is less than adequate.

    http://torontosun.com/2017/06/29/troubling-study-shows-tens-of-thousands-leaving-canada-for-healthcare-due-to-long-health-care-wait-times/wcm/35befd11-bed1-4f44-befe-e70838f3d09a

    http://nationalpost.com/opinion/health-care-system-pushed-to-breaking-point-with-recent-cuts-proposed-tax-changes

    It is the way the tail is on the cat, despite what Bernie Sanders thinks here in the USA.

  • If you have to ask what is wrong about intervening into the choices as to what people do with their own lives/bodies, then you won’t care about this issues involved.

    One’s choice to end their lives is theirs and theirs alone. Provided they had the facilities to know and appreciate the choice. You don’t have to assist in the act, but you have no business to countermand it.

    Respect for life and of people means you respect that people don’t have to live in the way you demand of them.

  • Unless you are a civil servant or wealthy, that treatment regimen would drain you financially in the US.

    Both of my inlaws are cancer survivors, retirees and not well off financially. If they did not live in a country with socialized medicine they would be dead and/or bankrupt.

  • The NHS is imperfect and politicians meddle, but they meddle at the risk of losing power.

    Perhaps you need to improve Medicare and Medicaid rather than ration service by price.

  • I don’t understand the problem with “socialised” medicine.

    When I was working full-time I paid a small amount of my wages (less than tithing) to the state and my fellow citizens who needed care received it – imperfectly no doubt – but generally of a high standard.

    Now I am retired and those working provide for me.

    It smacks, to me, of the compassion and empathy that many Christians claim is their exclusive preserve.

  • The opposition is largely canned, scripted and dishonest.

    It has to do with a basic antipathy towards all public benefits or the notion that government should serve the public beyond ones personal interests. Largely selfishness, malice and panic.

  • The fact they meddle at the risk of losing power doesn’t restore the teeth to the individuals who pulled their own teeth because the NHS funds only 25% of the needed dentists.

    Improving Medicare and Medicaid requires – money.

    Just like the NHS.

    And when politicians promise imaginary cost savings, apparently from the equally imaginary Golden Goose, the results are predictable – lots of cheap care and drugs, damned little expensive care and drugs.

  • I see you’re adding “selfishness”, “malice”, and “panic” to “dishonest” as all-purpose non-arguments.

  • 1. “If you have to ask…” Ugh. If you don’t want to answer, just say so. But don’t hide behind a false accusation of ignorance.
    2. The child cannot defend himself. That’s why others need to take over the fight. This is the far more likely scenario when it comes to the issue of life vs. death.
    3. Respect for life is one thing. Respect for the decisions and actions of others made during that life is entirely different, for obvious reasons.

  • 1. If you respect personhood then you would know it is wrong to intervene in the lives of others who clearly assent to leaving this world. The official Catholic attitude towards such choices is typically to ignore them and claim to know better irregardless of a person’s wishes.

    2. This is not about the defense of a child. Its about trying to dragoon medical personnel and resources towards a person experts give no chance of survival to. The parents and the vatican can’t move the baby without British medical personnel having to be involved.

    3. Thank you. We have agreement. 🙂

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