Yes, I know there are other things going on in the Church and the world, but the Alfie Evans story continues to eat up the majority of my attention, whether I want it to or not. We are watching one of the milestones in the descent of Western Civilization into madness play out before our very eyes, and despite the massive worldwide attention, nothing seems capable of staying the hand of evil. Court arguments have been tried and failed; appeals have been exhausted. International medical professionals and ethicists have weighed in. Diplomatic efforts have been attempted.
But Alder Hey Hospital and the British government are determined to kill a helpless toddler rather than let his parents take him somewhere people actually want to treat him and give him the ongoing care he deserves as he lives out the rest of what will be, barring some miracle, his far-too-short life.
As conversations have unfolded around the issues in play, I’ve seen not a few Americans thanking their lucky stars (and stripes) that this former colony departed from the British Empire while the getting was good. The police in the UK are threatening people with arrest for simply saying things they don’t like about the Alfie Evans case. Or as one person put it: “Hey, you guys, watch your speech while we murder a kid or you’re in trouble.”
One German physician highlighted the insanity of how NHS is handling this case: “This National Health Service system is apparently so unquestioned that no second opinion is allowed. If you want to get a different opinion in Germany with another doctor, one does not complain as a clinic and say death is reasonable. That’s completely irrational! … The logic that it is better for the child to die than that someone else looks at it, and even to sue in court: This is an unimaginable behaviour for me.”
Today, on Twitter, I came across a thread by a man named Kurt Michaels that reminded me we’re not necessarily as far from this kind of thing here at home as it may seem. I got permission from the author to piece it together here, so I put it forward for your consideration:
The Alfie situation is very personal to me. No, I don’t live in England. I live in flyover country in the good old USA. Yet something that happened to Alfie’s parents could have happened to me.
13 years ago, my life was great. I had a job that garnered respect in our community. I was married and our 4th child had arrived the year before. We had a big house, a good church, and life was great.
One Sunday after church, our 18 month old took a nap and wouldn’t wake up. We called the doctor, who is a personal friend, on his cell phone. He said to meet him at the ER.
I won’t bore you with the ER details, but it was discovered that our son had acute myeloid leukemia and was almost completely out of blood. They did an emergency transfusion and then LifeFlighted him to a university hospital 100 miles away. The medical team was very good. They had procedures in place for just such a situation. They started him on an aggressive, long term chemo treatment plan. It was difficult, but we managed. My son’s mom stayed with him in the hospital while I took the other three kids home so they could go to school and I could work. Every weekend we came back to the hospital. Thank God for the Ronald McDonald House.
After a few months of treatment, they reported that he showed no signs of the leukemia! Praise God! We were elated. When we met with the doctor next, we asked him if we could take him off protocol since the cancer was gone? We didn’t know what a dangerous question that was.
The doctor informed us that he had to finish the “road map” in order to best insure the cancer not return. We would have accepted that answer just fine, but then he proceeded to inform us that nobody had ever requested that a child be removed from his care. He was outraged. Furthermore, if we were to discontinue our son’s treatment, he would call child protective services and have him removed from us. He then insinuated that if one child is removed, they will probably take all four. The phrase that was said to us was, “When you came to us for medical help, you ceded some control over deciding what is best for him.” This is forever burned in my memory. I was shocked.
Since the doctor threatened our kids, we went to a high profile lawyer and explained the situation. He said that we might win in the courts, but we would lose in the press. They would label us as religious nuts who withhold medical treatment from a baby. The lawyer explained that we really did cede some parental rights when we seek medical treatment. An adult can discontinue treatment. A child must do what the doc thinks best. He then suggested that we continue treatment at a hospital in another city. We did some research, made the request and it was granted. The atmosphere at the second hospital was light and encouraging. It was completely opposite of the way the university hospital was.
As we checked our son out of the university hospital for the last time, the doctor went out of his way to come by and sneer. He said, “You know he’s getting the same chemo there as here, right?” He chuckled until I replied, “Yes, but you will never touch him again.”
Just remembering this story makes me angry. But to see Tom Evans and Kate James not have the right to move their son, even though they had the money, the hospital, and even Italian citizenship to go to Rome infuriates me. Alfie Evans is a human life with inherent worth. To see the medical community and the courts demean that should make every human with a conscience angry. I hope Alder Hey Children’s Hospital is remembered with the same fondness as Auschwitz.
This is important to all of us. If an arbitrary panel of doctors and a judge can determine your baby has no quality of life, they can determine the same about your mom. Or even you. Alfie’s life matters. I will never understand why everyone doesn’t see it.
Yes, this is anecdotal. We’re only hearing one side of this story. But it’s absolutely believable. I asked Kurt where he was in the treatment process when he wanted to bring his son home. He replied:
It was a few months into the treatment. The doctor said that my son showed no signs of leukemia. We were thrilled. Later, we began to wonder if that meant treatment was over. We went to his weekly appointment and asked. That’s when the doctor took offense at us asking.
So why, I asked, did he want to continue the treatment?
The protocol needed to be finished in order to help ensure that the cancer wouldn’t return. As I stated in the thread, had he just said that, we would have understood and complied without question. However, in his offense, he threatened to remove our children. This was all on him.
We can’t assume that just because what’s happening to Alfie is in a country with a socialized, single-payer system, that it’s something that can’t happen here. Be on guard. As Hilary White explained in her excellent recent essay on the new bioethics:
This is where the confusion is coming from. Among the “elites” – including hospital and government medical ethics boards, the “experts” so many people are citing in the Alfie Evans case – there is an entirely “New Paradigm” at work, one that is actively opposed and hostile to that ancient, perennial “Classical” model.
This shift took a long time, and was mostly accomplished at “higher” societal levels than ordinary people function in. This is where the bafflement comes from. Nearly all people in our post-Christian societies remain philosophically Christian, even if they don’t realise it or profess Christianity themselves. We assume that it’s just a rule that doctors, nurses – and judges – don’t kill innocent children.
The reason I say that I wanted to stay out of the Alfie Evans furore was that my own discovery of this paradigm shift was a major point of crisis in my own life.
I remember really well the day I understood it completely. I had been reading for a while and was starting to get it. Then one day I suddenly understood that everyone was OK with it, mainly because they hadn’t really thought about it. Because their Christianity was nothing more now than a kind of cultural background noise – and because they had mostly been so mis-educated that they no longer had the capacity to recognise the inherent irrationality of a logical contradiction – it was easy for these “elites” to just change the tune with no one noticing. It suddenly occurred to me that most people passively supported the idea that it could be “compassionate and caring” to murder helpless, sick and old people.
It came to me in one of those horrible flashes of insight, while I was sitting on a bus. I looked around and realised that in all likelihood every single person on the bus probably thought it was a good thing to kill people or to kill yourself, if your life had become “burdensome” or painful. That death was better than life had become the background assumption of our society. I realised that the old legal definition of insanity (also changed in the New Paradigm) described as a a person being unable to tell the difference between right and wrong, applied to nearly everyone around me. I started having a panic attack – my very first one ever – and jumped up from my seat and asked the bus driver to let me off because I was going to be sick. He opened the door, and I got off the bus, and the subzero temps calmed me down a bit (February in Halifax, Nova Scotia doesn’t care how upset you are). I walked home, unplugged my phone and didn’t come out of my house for a week.
A few months later I started understanding more and more what was happening. And even worse, how much my own mind and conscience had been malformed over the years by this evil ideology. I started going to talk to a priest about it all (poor guy) and we determined that it was time to do something about it. I started doing work for Campaign Life Coalition, thinking I could fix the problem.
And that sense of horror never really went away. In fact, the more I learned about what had happened – and as a consequence of that, what was going on right now in hospitals and biotechnology research labs – the more my sense of horror grew. It became a kind of obsession to learn more and I never lost the awareness that nearly everyone else, almost everyone I would talk to, assumed it was fine to kill people, as long as the “experts” said it was OK. After a while I felt as though I was living in enemy territory, a spy behind enemy lines. Some time after that it began to feel as though I lived in a parallel universe where I could see and hear everything but was completely unable to communicate with anyone, like being forced to watch atrocities but being totally unable to act against them.
And here we are, 20 years later, and a court has ruled that although his parents have permission to take Alfie Evans home, he is still being effectively held prisoner, refused medical care for his still-undiagnosed condition, specifically in order to assure that he doesn’t live. The British medical system and courts have determined that Alfie has to die because of the working assumption that death is preferable to life for disabled people.
When my friends email me to tell me how they feel about it and say things like, “I can’t fathom this,” all I can think or say is, “I can.” For those who are horrified and perplexed and baffled by what is happening to Alfie Evans (and to Charlie Gard before him) I can certainly empathise. But I can say that I’m not perplexed or baffled. This is the only possible destination of the path we’ve been on for a long time. This is where we had to go.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.