If you’re one of the few people who don’t know who Alfie Evans is, here’s some quick backstory: Alfie is a 23-month-old boy in the UK who had developmental problems in his first year. His parents, Tom and Kate Evans, said that among other things, he was experiencing “seizure-like movements”. They took him to see doctors, but they claim they were told he was simply “lazy and a late developer.”
Then in December of 2016, Alfie came down with a chest infection that caused more seizures, and ultimately put him into a coma, leading to him being placed on Life Support at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. He has been in a “semi-vegetative state” ever since, and has a degenerative neurological condition that is as-yet not diagnosed. In other words, he is the victim of a mystery illness that is causing damage to his brain. After a year without recovery — and claims of his neurological condition worsening — the doctors at Alder Hey have been fighting Alfie’s parents in court to remove him from mechanical ventilation and let him die.
The culture of death has consumed Europe, and it has come for their children.
Doctors insist that the majority of Alfie’s brain has been destroyed by his condition. They have argued that he can not breathe on his own. The parents have sought to remove Alfie from the hospital to seek treatment elsewhere, but have been legally prevented from doing so by a court system that appears heavily biased in favor of the concept of forcible death as an alleviation of suffering.
Yesterday was supposed to be Alfie’s “execution day.” He was to be removed from his ventilator, and according to some reports, also given a lethal dose of sedatives. Again, there is so much information coming in so fast, it’s difficult to be certain of all the details. Which brings me to my next point.
I’ve been aware of the Alfie Evans story for months, but I haven’t taken the time to dive into the details to cover it, for various reasons, and I am feeling guilty for not having done more. Part of this is because of the complex maze of medical and legal technicalities involved, which other outlets that focus more specifically on pro-life issues are more well-equipped to tackle with precision. Part is because I wonder what I could possibly hope to add to the coverage that’s already out there. (See LifeSiteNews for constant updates on the story.)
And as I discovered yesterday, I’m not very good at handling situations like this. Once I get involved, it becomes personal. I took one look at this video, knowing that this little boy is someone the the courts and Alder Hey hospital in the UK are actively trying to kill, and I broke down:
Later, when he was taken off the ventilator — abruptly, and without weaning — he proved the doctors wrong, and kept breathing on his own. A little boy who we’re told has such diminished brain function his life is worthless. A boy who was not expected to be able to breathe on his own for more than a few minutes has now been breathing for 15 hours. A little boy that medical experts and judges want dead, because it’s “in his own best interests.”
Look at this face. He could be my son. He could be yours:
It has since been reported that the hospital would not let his family give him oxygen to aid his labored breathing — labor that is to be expected from the sudden removal of his ventilator — or give him needed fluids. Later in the night, it appears that the hospital relented, but there are reports as of this morning that he is receiving insufficient nutrition and hydration. There have also been reports that he is experiencing acidosis, which could easily be treated with an IV drip.
Faced with all of this, what parent wouldn’t immediately remove their child from the hospital and take him elsewhere? And yet Alfie’s father has been threatened with an assault charge if he removes his son from the premises. Threatened with arrest if he took his little boy who was no longer being given treatment by the hospital, but kept under police guard — according to some reports, as many as 30 officers posted — so that he could die against his parents’ wishes.
But people the world over have been praying for this child, and the battle is not over.
Tom Evans, whom I understand is at least nominally Catholic, has been unable to get support from the Bishops of the UK for his son, who is baptized. Evans, however, met with Pope Francis on April 18, and sought support there to save his son. Even though the pope’s own words about the moral liceity of withdrawing “overzealous treatment” were cited by the judge who ordered the removal of Alfie’s ventilator, Francis has given his support to the parents, vocally backing them in their quest to remove Alfie to seek alternative care. (Ironically, the judge’s decision was supported by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the pope’s new head of the Pontifical Academy for Life.)
It is unclear what, if any, additional intervention the pope may have made, but the Italian government has now granted Alfie Italian citizenship. This creates a new legal barrier to his forcible death, and it is hoped that it will be used as leverage to have him released and taken to the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome for treatment. A medevac helicopter is on standby to take Alfie. There are also reports of an Italian military plane ready to take the boy to Rome.
Meanwhile, his parents wait to appeal to the court — again — to grant them their God-given right to do what is best for their own son.
Today, a statement was issued by the Medical Ethics Alliance condemning the way Alfie is being denied basic and necessary treatment. The statement deserves to be read in its entirety:
Press release, regarding Alfie Evans: Medical and State Tyranny
From the Medical Ethics Alliance
14.00pm 24th April 2018
We are deeply concerned and outraged by the treatment and care offered to Alfie Evans. Wanting to withdraw treatment so that he will die, the medical authorities have taken Alfie to the High Court. At that point, and as a result of the hospital’s court action, the parents were stripped of their right to be decision makers for their beloved child. They could only advise the Court and look on as the High Court made decisions for Alfie.
The High Court decided that it was in the “Best Interests “ of Alfie to die and duly authorized the withdrawal of treatment. As a result the parents are being tortured as they watch the hospital take actions expected to lead to his death.
Despite a viable alternative being available (namely transfer by air ambulance for further assessment to a specialist hospital in Rome), the hospital and doctors responsible for his care insists that he remains under their care and on a pathway towards death. While he now has some oxygen and some fluid this has taken huge effort to obtain for him. He is offered sedation although (we understand) this has not been given at present. Sedation (if given) would mean that he would develop respiratory failure and die even more quickly.
Actions such as these have now brought the Alder Hey Hospital to worldwide attention and by extension bring our whole profession into disrepute.
Medical tyranny must stop. Poor Alfie must not be killed in this way. We demand that the authorities to allow Alfie safe passage to Rome.
With respect we insist that with immediate effect the GMC investigate the actions of doctors providing his care. Surely the doctors should refuse to implement such a tyrannical decision and allow Alfie to go to Rome.
Dr Anthony Cole. Medical Ethics Alliance
Dr Thomas Ward
Dr Adrian Treloar MV BS FRCP MRCPsych MRCGP
Dr Robert Hardie
Dr Josephne Venn-Treloar MB BS
Philippe Schepens MD
Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life(PAV) (1995-2017)
Member of the board of the PAV (1995-2004)
Member of the board of the John-Paul II Academy of Life and Family
Member of the board of the American Life League (honorary)
Secretary-General of the World Federation of Doctors who respect Human Life
Theresa Mandeville RN, MSN, CMSRN
Carlos A. Casanova, PhD
Deacon William V. Williams, M.D.
Editor in Chief Emeritus
The Linacre Quarterly
Dr. Adrian Quinn, Psy. D.
Dr Maria Isabella Sereni
Sara Brugnoli MD
W W Bendi
Anna Maria Napoli
Noli A. Mababangloob
Jonathan Sharman, Clinical Audit Coordinator
Mrs Elizabeth Rhodes
Helena Manuela Rodrigues Freitas
Nicole Murray (Paramedic)
Mrs Evelyn Davie
Joseph Burnham, DC
We are inviting doctors to cosign this petition. If you wish to sign this statement please email firstname.lastname@example.org
As this battle rages on today, hour by excruciating hour, the pope has again made public his support:
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
Today, we received an anonymous open letter of appeal to the pope to do more. We present it here for your consideration:
What ever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40
Holy Father, I know that you have tried to personally intervene on behalf of Alfie Evans, the critically ill infant right now struggling to breathe in the UK. I thank you for your kindness to his father, and your work in bringing attention to this case. I suspect that you are perhaps one of the driving forces behind the Italian citizenship that was granted to Alfie in the hopes of pursuing medical treatment elsewhere.
Holy Father, you are the successor of Peter, the vicar of Christ on earth. You are the guardian of Peter’s ship through this world. Holy Father, I ask you to please get on the plane. Get on the plane, as quite possibly the only person who can. Visit this child, hold him in your arms and walk out the door. Beneath the cameras and the attention of the press, you are the only human being who may be able to take Alfie and allow him to get to the hospital that operates under your auspices, where he can be medically supported for whatever of his life remains. You have a claim to moral authority that so few of us could ever have recognized, by virtue of your ministry.
Holy Father, you must try. Even if it fails. Even if you cannot leave the room. Even if you are barred. You are Christ on this earth and if you do not try this, no one will. I value the art of diplomacy, but the time comes where we must no longer be diplomats but servants. You have so frequently spoken of mercy and the value of life at the peripheries. Holy Father, your son cries out for your mercy. I beg of you to hear and help him.
Your daughter and obedient child of the Church entrusted to your care
Many recall the pope’s visit to Greece in 2016, where, after giving a statement about welcoming refugees, took three families home with him to Italy on the papal plane.
Could you imagine if he did something similar here?
It is of particular interest, in the light of the recently re-ignited controversy over the case of Pope Pius IX and Edgardo Mortara, the six-year-old Jewish boy who was taken from his family in 1858 and brought to live in the papal household to be raised and educated in the Faith after it was discovered he had been secretly baptized by the family’s Catholic housekeeper. The case was brought back to the attention of the public by a book review at First Things that was supportive of the pontiff’s decision. Since that review was published, Catholic commentators have debated passionately over this historical case of papal intervention, some in support, and others adamantly opposed.
We are faced now with something reminiscent, but quite different — in this case, it is the state that has stepped in, not the pope, and taken a child from his parents. In this case, however, their intention is not to look after the little boy’s immortal soul, but to end his earthly existence.
It is possible now that only a pope could free him.
The Catholic Church hasn’t had many moral victories lately. I don’t much care what the pope’s motivations are in any possible further intervention, and I won’t pretend to believe that he’s truly a staunch opponent of what’s happening. Not in light what he’s done to the Pontifical Academy for Life, nor his alliance with Italian abortionist and euthanasia proponent Emma Bonino, or population control leader Jeffrey Sachs. But he is Christ’s Vicar, and Christ would do all he could to save this child. Let us pray that God grants him the grace to do all that he can here in service of this cause.
In the mean time, please also pray for Alfie and his parents. Pray that they prevail. Pray that God gives Alfie the strength to continue his little fight, which is truly a linchpin in the larger war against the Culture of Death, and the rapidly encroaching threat of widespread and involuntary euthanasia. Alfie’s life is valuable for its own sake, but it could also save many others. If Alfie lives, if he continues to prove doctors wrong, it will set a precedent that won’t be easily brushed aside.
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.