Have you been following the case of Alfie Evans, a British toddler who has been on life support at the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool? He has a rare disease that has destroyed his brain, according to doctors. The hospital has been trying to remove him from life support, but his parents have been fighting this.
In a country like Britain, which has state health care, it is understandable that when a patient is judged past the point of recovery, that medical officials would withdraw life support. I do not say justifiable; I say understandable. Alfie has been living in a semi-vegetative state at the hospital for over a year. It is unreasonable for the hospital to be compelled to provide medical care indefinitely for Alfie, with no hope for him to improve. If the hospital agreed to do so anyway, that would be an act of deep charity and humanity, but I don’t believe it is required in this case.
If Tom Evans and Kate James, the 23-month-old boy’s parents, chose to have their son’s life support withdrawn so that he could die a natural death, they would be within their natural rights. It would be a terrible decision, but that decision belongs to them, as Alfie’s mother and father.
Now, there would be an obvious clash of interests if the parents couldn’t afford the extraordinary medical care they wanted for their child, and the state did not wish to pay for it because they saw no chance that the child could recover.
But there was, and at this writing, remains, a way out. Another country has offered to take Alfie in, grant him citizenship, and provide medical care for him at its own expense. And this is what Pope Francis has urged — and may God bless him for his heroic defense of Alfie’s life.
Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 23, 2018
So what is the problem here? The National Health Service would have done all it wishes to do, and Alfie would then become another government’s responsibility. Maybe the Italians are sentimental fools. Maybe Tom and Kate Evans have been driven mad by love of their son. But so what? It is the only chance Alfie has to live. Let the Italians and the Evanses be fools. What would that cost the British taxpayer?
Nothing. Not a thing.
But the British courts will not allow that. The courts have said that it is in Alfie’s best interest that he be allowed to die. Who gets to decide what is in a child’s best interests? Not the parents, but the state, chiefly under an 1891 law that granted courts that right to protect minors from neglectful or abusive parents. And that is why John O’Sullivan calls this a “state-ordered killing.” Excerpts:
After all, the court itself concedes that Alfie’s actual parents are good and loving parents. They are not the brutal, cold, or neglectful parents who were the justification for transferring parental rights to the courts in 1891. On the contrary they have made heroic efforts to find other doctors and another hospital that will treat their child — and they have succeeded. Why should not they, rather than judges or doctors, be the best judges of Alfie’s paramount interests?
And that question gains greater force from the court’s decision. It is, after all, a death sentence. What is it saving Alfie from? He does not appear to be in pain. Removing Alfie to an Italian hospital would not deprive other young patients in Alder Hey from benefiting from the medical treatments he currently receives. The reason seems to be that both court and doctors feel he will never recover or live without the permanent help of advanced medical assistance — and that keeping him alive for longer is thus essentially pointless.
O’Sullivan, who is British, points out that in the UK, The NHS and the UK courts have declared that his is a life unworthy of life.
In what sense is the UK government not euthanizing Alfie Evans? It is terrifying to me as a parent to think that the state could decide on its own that my sick child should die, even though he is not in pain, and even though his mother and I had made arrangements to have him cared for in another country, at no expense to the state.
Is this what it means to live in a post-Christian nation?
I think this is what it means to live in a post-Christian nation.
It is becoming a post-humane nation.
In Britain the death penalty is illegal. In Britain euthanasia is illegal. In Britain 30 policeman are standing guard outside Alfie Evans’ room to ensure his court ordered death proceeds uninterrupted.
— Ed Condon (@canonlawyered) April 23, 2018
The Italian ambassador, representing the Italian citizen named Alfie Evans, is not playing around:
WOW. Italian Embassy in London: “If you remove the ventilator from Alfie Evans, we will file a complaint against you for the murder of an Italian citizen.” https://t.co/11UGLbhy5h
— Mahound’s Paradise (@MahoundParadise) April 23, 2018
In a movie, Alfie would survive in the last final scene. It’s hard to believe that he will do so in life. We can understand the quite simple emotions that move Alfie’s parents, the crowds of sympathizers, and the Italian diplomats and their voters. But how are we to interpret the official UK decisions? It seems to me (partly on the basis of earlier such conflicts) that all involved will believe passionately that they are doing the right thing. But something else has taken over their thoughts and action: They are now determined to defend their claim to be Alfie’s real parents and their compassionate administration of his inevitable death without pain — against what they see as the primitive sentimentality of those trying to rescue him. They grit their teeth and get on with it, maybe feeling a little noble about it all. And they don’t realize that they are moving by baby steps towards the compulsory euthanasia of the weak and sick.
UPDATE.2: Reader Giuseppe Scalas e-mails:
In the meantime, a miracle has happened. Before the removal of the ventilator people began praying for Alfie to breathe on his own.
The physicians said he would suffocate in 15 minutes. He lasted 12 hours. At which point, the physician at Alder Hey were forced to restore ventilation and hydration.
This is a miracle by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, there are no other words for it, but the one of the Magnificat!