Alfie Evans, British toddler at center of legal medical battle, dies after taken off life support

(USA Today) — 'I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie,' Pope Francis posted on Twitter. 'Today I pray especially for his parents, as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace.'

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)

(USA Today) — A British toddler at the center of a controversial legal fight died Saturday, just days after he was removed from life support.

Alfie Evans’ parents announced their son’s death early Saturday, losing the fight against his degenerative neurological condition, which had not been diagnosed.

“My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30,” his father, Thomas Evans wrote on Facebook. “Absolutely heartbroken.”

Alfie’s fight for treatment drew support from around the world, including from Pope Francis.

“I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie,” he posted on Twitter. “Today I pray especially for his parents, as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace.”

His parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, wanted to take their son to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital in Rome after doctors at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where Alfie was held in Liverpool, northern England, said continuing treatment would be “unkind, unfair and inhumane.”

He was removed from life support on Monday.

RELATED: Toddler Alfie Evans’ parents say they’ll work with doctors

His parents fought for months in front of judges and continued to appeal the decision to take him off life support nearly up to Alfie’s death. But judges maintained removing him from care was the right choice and prevented his parents from transferring him to another hospital. On Wednesday, his parents lost their final court battle.

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Dozens of Alfie’s supporters gathered at Springfield Park, next door to the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, after the news of his death. The group released purple and blue balloons to honor the toddler’s life.

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The controversy of care mirrored another British case that drew attention worldwide. Charlie Gard, an infant with a rare genetic condition known as mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, died in July after months of battling for prolonged treatment.

His parents fought doctors and judges for months to take him to the United States for radical treatment because the condition left him unable to move. Charlie couldn’t breathe without a ventilator. He was blind and deaf. He died one week before his first birthday.