Terminally Ill Child’s Life Support Turned Off After Medical Ethics Case

Wednesday 25th April 2018

The parents of terminally ill child Alfie Evans are looking for further options for treatment after the High Court rules that Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool could end the twenty-three-month-old’s care, which included switching off his life support. Alfie has been breathing unaided for more than twenty-four hours, whilst an appeal is made to allow him to be transferred to a hospital in Rome to continue treatment. A decision from the appeals court is expected sometime this afternoon.

A case brought by the Christian Legal Centre attempting to allow transfer of Alfie to a hospital in Rome has led to the case being reopened, with the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs even granting Alfie Italian citizenship to speed up the transfer. These arguments were rejected by the high court, arguing that they had no substance. An appeal is expected to come to a decision this afternoon.

Alfie Evans was born in May 2016 and by December was diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain condition, leaving him suffering seizures and in a semi-vegetative state. By December 2017 the NHS Foundation Trust for Alder Hey went to the High Court seeking a ruling that declared that it would not be in the best interest for Alfie Evans to continue ventilator treatment and thus in the circumstances it is not lawful to continue such treatment.

Two months later, on 20th February, the High Court ruled in agreement, stating that doctors at Alder Hey could stop providing life support, agreeing with the argument by the hospital that continued treatment was “unkind, unfair and inhumane”, and noting that Alfie requires “peace, quiet and privacy” during his final hours.

Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, appealed this decision, which was rejected. The appeal then went to the Supreme Court, where the Supreme Court Justices would not allow another appeal. Attempts to go to the European Court were rejected as inadmissible, and an end of life care plan was approved by Mr Justice Hayden for Alfie’s life support to be removed.

Alfie’s parents argued that he was “unlawfully detained” in order to begin a second round of appeals, which were subsequently rejected by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Mr Evans then subsequently met with Pope Francis asking for an intervention, which also within hours caused the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Italy granting Alfie Italian citizenship, with a spokesman for the Italian Embassy noting that should the decision be reversed, they are on standby to transfer him to a hospital in Rome.

This decision was rejected by Justice Hayden, which stated that because Alfie is a British citizen he is under the jurisdiction of the high court, to the anger of Alfie’s Army, the group of supporters of the 23-month-old and his family, who attempted to storm the front entrance of Alder Hey before police officers blocked the entrance.

A fresh case was then brought to allow Alfie to be moved from Alder Hey to the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome, under the claim that Alfie has fared better than expected after life support was removed. This was also rejected by the judge, lamenting that the “sad truth” was that Alfie’s health has not improved.

Alfie’s parents have undertaken a further appeal, which is expected to be heard later today.