WASHINGTON, DC – A British court has rejected the final appeal from the parents of little Alfie Evans, whose life support will be shut off soon by a children’s hospital despite their objections.
Alfie suffers from a rare neurological disease that doctors at the hospital have been unable to treat. Alfie’s parents want to take him to a hospital in Italy that has offered to provide care and treatment and to do their best to combat the medical condition, but doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in London say Alfie’s condition is too far gone and they want to pull his life support and end his life.
A lawyer representing parents Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, on Monday asked Court of Appeal judges to rule that the 23-month-old should be allowed to receive treatment abroad.
The Court of Appeal agreed with Alder Hey specialists that the terminally ill tot “could not be saved” and that it would be “unkind” and “futile” to continue treatment.
Lord Justice Davis, who is heading the three-strong panel of appeal judges, told lawyers that at the start of the hearing today that doctors had agreed that there was “no hope”.
He said: “We cannot have a kind of legal ‘Groundhog Day’ where you come back again and again and again on the same point.”
The court was also read a statement from Lord Justice Hayden’s previous ruling where he said: “The terrible reality was that almost the entirety of Alfie’s brain has been eroded, leaving only water and cerebral spinal fluid.
“Treatment is futile as experts both here and abroad agree. Alfie will never make any developmental progress. He has been treated in Alder Hey since 2015.”
A second appeal judge, Lady Justice King, said doctors’ unanimous opinion was that Alfie “could not be saved”.
Paul Diamond, the family’s lawyer, said he wished to apply for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
He argued the Supreme Court “got it wrong” and “only they can reconsider their verdict”.
But Alder Hey’s lawyer Michael Mylonas – along with Alfie’s independent guardian – argued permission should not be granted and the Supreme Court has already heard the arguments.
Lord Justices Moylan and Davis, and Lady Justice King, unanimously rejected the application for permission to appeal.
But the family do have the right to ask permission directly to the Supreme Court.
Paul Diamond, and Alfie’s family, must lodge this appeal by 4pm tomorrow if they wish to pursue that legal avenue.
For the second time, Pope Francis has weighed in on the battle to save little Alfie Evans. Over the weekend the head of the Catholic Church called for prayers for Alfie, the 23 year-old suffering from a rare neurological condition who’s hospital is threatening to revoke his life support over his parents’ objections.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis sent out a tweet supporting Alfie. He expressed his hopes on Twitter that “everything necessary would be done” to help the child, who suffers from a mystery brain disorder.
The Holy Father tweeted: “It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard. I am praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved.”
The hearing today came after a drama-filled day in London where Alfie’s parents relied on a letter from a pro-life attorney saying they have the legal right to withdraw Alfie from the hospital. However police blocked them from getting Alfie and leaving.
Although Alfie’s parents have already lined up a hospital in Rome to provide him with a proper care and treatment plan, British courts as well as the European Court have sided with the hospital and its desire to yank his life support — saying he has little or no hope left.
Alfie, who was born May 9, 2016, has a devastating degenerative brain disorder that has baffled physicians and specialists. Alfie has been a patient at Alder Hey Childrens’ Hospital since December 2016. The hospital has asked the courts for authority to disconnect Alfie’s ventilator.
The parents have asked for permission to move Alfie to a hospital in Rome for further evaluation and possible additional treatment.
The hospital balked at the request. They argue Alfie’s condition is terminal and that the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome can do nothing more than Alder Hey already has.
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On February 20, after a seven-day hearing, Mr. Justice Hayden concluded, “I am satisfied that continued ventilatory support is no longer in Alfie’s interests,” and that maintaining Alfie alive on a ventilator would compromise his “future dignity,” mirroring the conclusions reached by Alder Hey Childrens’ Hospital.
Recently, Tom Evans obtained a letter from a pro-life attorney, Pavel Stroilov of the Christian Legal Centre, advising him that it would be legal for him to remove his son from the hospital — but police prevented him from doing so.
Evans and friends and family posted video on Facebook of the failed attempt to remove Alfie from the hospital.
“I have a documentation saying that I have the right to take my son out of this hospital,” Evans says in the video.
“Alder Hey is stopping us. Alder Hey is calling the police. To murder my son. Alder Hey has phoned the police to stop me from taking my son out of the hospital,” Evans continued. “This is my son. Look at my healthy, healthy young boy who’s undiagnosed and is certainly not dying. There’s the ventilator. We have all the equipment.”
Stroilov’s letter informs Evans: “You have asked me to clarify whether it would be legal for you to remove your son Alfie from Alder Hey Hospital without the Hospital’s consent. In Alfie’s situation, that would only be practical with the support of a team of medical professionals with the necessary life support equipment.”
“Subject to that, I can confirm that such a removal would be lawful under English law,” he continued. “Alfie is only in hospital because you, his parents, voluntarily sought its healthcare services. Alfie retains the right to self-discharge from hospital. He is not imprisoned there. Because of his minority, it is for you, as his parents, to make a decision to self-discharge or to stay at hospital.”
He added: “The effect of the declaratory orders made by Mr Justice Hayden in the High Court is to make it lawful for Alder Hey to withdraw his artificial ventilation treatment, and to protect Alder Hay and its staff from legal liability for that step. It is not the intention or effect of the order to circumvent Alfie’s personal liberty or your parental rights. It remains lawful for an alternative team of medical professionals, with your parental consent, to provide such medical treatment to Alfie as they professionally deem to be appropriate.”
Below is the full legal letter:
You have asked me to clarify whether it would be legal for you to remove your son Alfie from Alder Hey Hospital without the Hospital’s consent. In Alfie’s situation, that would be practical with the support of a team of medical professionals with the necessary life support equipment.
Subject to that, I can confirm that such a removal would be lawful under English law.
Alfie is only in hospital because you, his parents, voluntarily sought its healthcare services. Alfie retains the right to self-discharge from hospital. He is not imprisoned there. Because of his minority, it is for you, as his parents, to make a decision to self-discharge or to stay at hospital.
The effect of the declaratory orders made by Mr Justice Hayden in the High Court is to make it lawful for Alder Hey to withdraw his artificial ventilation treatment, and to protect Alder Hey and its staff from legal liability for that step. It is not the intention or effect of the order to circumvent Alfie’s personal liberty or your parental rights. It remains lawful for an alternative team of medical professionals, with your parental consent, to provide such medical treatment to Alfie as they professionally deem to be appropriate.
As you know, today Mr Justice Hayden made a further order scheduling the withdrawal of ventilation from Alfie [REDACTED]. The legal position may arguably become more complicated if someone within the High Court’s jurisdiction continues to provide ventilation after that point. However, there is no doubt that, until that point in time, it remains entirely lawful to provide ventilation to Alfie; and that can be done by a medical service provider of your choice.
For these reasons, as a matter of law it is your right to come to Alder Hey Hospital with a team of medical professionals with their own life-support equipment, and move Alfie to such other place you consider is best for him. You do not need any permission from Alder Hey Hospital or the Court to do so.
Hope this clarifies the matter.
Christian Legal Centre