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Parents of sick toddler Alfie Evans lose UK court appeal

In this April 23, 2018 handout photo provided by Alfies Army Official, brain-damaged toddler Alfie Evans cuddles his mother Kate James at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, England. 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 his 23-month-old son, Alfie, survived for six hours with no assistance, and that doctors are now providing oxygen and hydration. (Alfies Army Official via AP)

In this April 23, 2018, handout photo provided by Alfies Army Official, brain-damaged toddler Alfie Evans cuddles his mother, Kate James, at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, England. The father of the 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 Alfie survived for six hours with no assistance and that doctors are now providing oxygen and hydration. (Alfies Army Official via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Court of Appeal on Wednesday rejected a new bid by the parents of terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans to take him to Italy and continue his life support against the wishes of his doctors and judges.

Doctors say the 23-month-old boy suffers from a degenerative neurological condition that has left him in a “semivegetative state” with almost no brain function. Medics caring for him at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool have said further treatment is futile, and the toddler’s life support was withdrawn Monday after a series of court rulings sided with the doctors and blocked further medical treatment.

Alfie’s parents continued their fight to take him to Italy to be cared for at the Vatican’s children’s hospital, which has said it is willing to take him.

Three Court of Appeal judges rejected the parents’ latest legal bid on Wednesday. Judge Andrew McFarlane said nothing had changed since a previous court ruling that Alfie’s treatment should end.

High Court Justice Anthony Hayden dismissed the parents’ case on Tuesday and said his ruling represented “the final chapter in the life of this extraordinary little boy.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Alfie’s parents would seek another appeal.


RELATED: Father: Sick UK child surviving after life support withdrawn


The months-long legal battle between Alfie’s parents, backed by a Christian pressure group, and his doctors has drawn interventions from the pope and Italian authorities, who support the parents’ desire to have their son treated in Italy.

Paul Diamond, attorney for Alfie’s father, Tom Evans, said Evans accepted that his son would die but wanted palliative care in line with his Catholic faith.

Alfie’s father says that the boy has continued to survive with no assistance after life support was withdrawn, and that doctors had subsequently resumed providing oxygen and hydration. On Wednesday he said Alfie was being given food again after 36 hours without it.

“Alfie is doing still as well as he can. He’s fighting,” Evans told ITV television.

A lawyer for Alfie’s mother, Kate James, told the court Wednesday that the child was “struggling” and needed immediate intervention if he was to survive much longer.

Doctors say it is hard to estimate how long Alfie will live without life support, but that there is no chance he will get better.

Under British law, it is common for courts to intervene when parents and doctors disagree on the treatment of a child. In such cases, the rights of the child take primacy over the parents’ right to decide what’s best for their offspring.

Emotions have run high over the case, with a band of supporters known as “Alfie’s Army” protesting regularly outside the hospital, at times trying to storm the entrance.

The hospital increased its security, and police said they were monitoring social media posts about the case for malicious communications.

McFarlane, the judge, said Tom Evans had attempted to bring a private prosecution for conspiracy to murder against three of Alfie’s doctors.

Alfie’s case has drawn international attention, with officials in largely Catholic Poland and Italy implicitly criticizing Britain’s courts and state-run National Health Service.

Polish President Andrzej Duda tweeted Wednesday that “Alfie Evans must be saved!”

“His brave little body has proved again that the miracle of life can be stronger than death,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Perhaps all that’s needed is some goodwill on the part of decision makers. Alfie, we pray for you and your recovery!”

Pope Francis has met Alfie’s father and made appeals for the boy’s parents’ wishes to be heeded, saying only God can decide who dies.

Italy has a military plane on standby to transport Alfie to Rome if the courts allow it. Alfie has also been granted Italian citizenship to facilitate his arrival and transport.

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Jill Lawless

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Danica Kirka

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  • “Under British law, it is common for courts to intervene when parents and doctors disagree on the treatment of a child. In such cases, the rights of the child take primacy over the parents’ right to decide what’s best for their offspring.”

    You seem to regard natural, but ignorant, parental emotions as more important than the welfare of a human being.

    British law has evolved a more caring, humane, and in the eyes of many, a more Christ-like view of the value of life – refusing to delay the inevitable and degrading death of any living being values the quality of life over the mere fact of existence – it is, IMO, compassion – not murder.

  • “….only God can decide who dies. ”
    That’s the reason there are over 20,000,000 miscarriages annually resulting in the death of the fetus.
    God decided they must die….

  • “High Court Justice Anthony Hayden dismissed the parents’ case on Tuesday, and said his ruling represented ‘the final chapter in the life of this extraordinary little boy.’”

    An “extraordinary little boy” that he is determined to see dead.

  • I fail to see how the application of palliative care in Italy undermines the humane values of the British state, whose idea of end of life care appears to be inconsistent at best. It does not pick the pocket of the British taxpayer for the parents, who really bear the ultimate responsibility for the child (The British Courts notwithstanding), to support the management of end of life care for the child by a more sympathetic nation.

  • I am not privy to all the information at the court’s disposal but there is concern that Alfie is already subject to unnecessary distress. Perhaps the belief is that the removal to Italy, which will not improve his life one iota, could add to that distress?

    I’ve just read an interesting Guardian article at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/26/alfie-evans-parents-activists
    which may help those unfamiliar with British procedures.

  • I’ve read the article you cited, and it appears largely to be well reasoned. And your point that a removal to Italy could add to the child’s distress is well taken. My greatest concern, based on previous stories, was that the child’s palliative care was inconsistent, and perhaps distressing as well. While the relative marvel of socialized medicine certainly has some merit, I’ve read credible accounts of rationing and delay of treatment that has added to the worsening condition and death of some patients. However, here in the states people often face the difficulty of crippling financial burdens, even as medicine remains an imperfect and imprecise science, with no guarantee of restored health. Often it appears that insurance companies, lawyers, and M.D.’s profit to the disadvantage of the balance of the population. That is not to say that there are not manifold numbers of dedicated and gifted health care providers.

  • Thank you

    I suppose that there will never be enough money, nor enough dedicated personnel, to provide every person with limitless healthcare.
    And, of course, with every advancement in care expectations rise to greater heights.
    No system of healthcare will ever be as good as we would like it to be – and, as you rightly suggest, all systems have their strengths and weaknesses. And yes, those delivering the healthcare, from cleaners to consultants, are often wonderful people.

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