The battle to save Alfie Evans carried a heavy emotional toll, and his death last Saturday has done little to lighten the burden. If anything, the sense of urgency has been replaced with one of outrage.
I can tell you the moment I connected with the story. I was sitting in my car outside a shop, waiting to go in. I had my phone in my hand, and checking my emails and notifications, came across a video of Alfie opening his eyes and looking around the room while sucking on a pacifier.
That’s when I realized that this little boy was very much alive, and that they were going to kill him anyway. I was suddenly overcome with grief, my eyes filling with tears. I found myself imagining being in Tom Evans’ place, fighting for one of my own sons. I broke down. Another video of Alfie and his father Tom did me in again today as I was working on this report. The idea that such a beautiful little child, clearly not “brain dead”, would be willfully killed by a medical and legal system against his parents wishes — all under the auspices of having the child’s best interests at heart — is a kind of monstrosity that just takes your breath way.
It is a staggering sort of hubris and cruelty.
Through the whole story, those pulling for Alfie’s survival suffered an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. There was nothing we could say, nothing we could do, to stop what was coming. No matter how loud I shouted, no matter what I wrote, that poor boy and his parents were tied to the tracks in front of a freight train with a full head of steam.
And we were forced to watch it run them over.
On Friday, April 26, Tom Evans read a conciliatory statement towards Alder Hey, thanking them, of all things, and asking everyone who was supporting the family to stop what they were doing and go home:
I wish to make a statement on behalf of myself and Kate.
Our lives have been turned upside down by the intense focus on Alfie and his situation.
Our little family, along with Alder Hey, has become the centre of attention for many people around the world and it has meant we have not been able to live our lives as we would like.
We are very grateful and we appreciate all the support we have received from around the world, including form our Italian and Polish supporters, who have dedicated their time and support to our incredible fight.
We would now ask you to return back to your everyday lives and allow myself, Kate and Alder Hey to form a relationship, build a bridge and walk across it.
We also wish to thank Alder Hey staff at every level for their dignity and professionalism during what must be an incredibly difficult time for them too.
Together we recognise the strains recent events have put upon us all, and we now wish for privacy for everyone concerned.
In Alfie’s interests we will work with his treating team on a plan that provides our boy with the dignity and comfort he needs.
From this point onwards there will be no more statements issued, or interviews given.
We hope you respect this.
The video of Tom reading the statement showed a man reciting something he had absolutely no emotional connection with. It appeared, as many people described it, to be a hostage statement. I found myself imagining it being handed to him by a PR rep for the hospital, accompanied by a threat. Something like:
“We have won the court battles and now have total control over your son. He can go the easy way or the hard way. And we have no obligation to allow you to be present. You might want to read this statement we’ve prepared.”
Privately, I speculated that part of whatever deal was struck with Tom Evans to get him to read that statement was a non-disclosure agreement, so that even after Alfie died, he’d be in a world of legal trouble if he ever talked about what really happened. (People following the story immediately began making a comparison to Charlie Gard, saying that his parents issued a similar statement at the end of their legal fight, and he was dead soon after.)
Sure enough, later that night as I lay in bed, I got the news that Alfie had finally succumbed. It was 2AM last Saturday morning. I was there in the dark, staring at my phone, unable to sleep, when I scrolled down and saw the news. Moments later, I began receiving messages from people claiming that he had died after being administered a cocktail of drugs. This rumor, as it turned out, would be repeated and contested for days after his death.
It was Benedetta Frigerio of La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana (NBQ) who attempted to assign the rumor to the realm of fact. She wrote a report detailing “all the facts” of how Alfie died, which was translated into English yesterday. It is an essential report in its entirety, but it contains a couple of particularly important assertions about how Alfie died among many disturbing facts. After Aflie was removed — without the normal weaning — from the ventilator he had been on for 15 months, he refused to die as expected. He continued breathing on his own. Frigerio relates how doctors kept trying to deprive Alfie of an oxygen mask, and how they would not give him nutrition for 36 hours. Frigerio also relates how Alfie was denied antibiotics to treat a lung infection. At some point, she reports, the doctors finally appeared to relent:
When the nutrition was at last supplied, however, it was kept at minimal levels. Still Alfie continued to live for 4 days defended by his parents from the doctors threats, opening his eyes from time to time and reacting. Then, in exchange for press silence, the hospital promised Thomas more oxygen and more life support. Two hours before dying, the oxygen saturation was about 98 and Alfie’s heartbeats approximately 160, stable to the point that Thomas was convinced he would be allowed to take his son home soon (as the hospital administration had told him on Friday afternoon). Before dying, while Thomas had left the room for a moment, leaving Kate drowsing and another family member in the room, a nurse entered and explained that she was going to give Alfie four drugs (no one knows what drugs) to treat him. No more than 30 minutes later, his oxygen saturation level dropped to 15. Two hours later, Alfie was dead. [emphasis added]
This section of Frigerio’s report is absolutely devastating, and it has unsurprisingly been widely contested. Caroline Farrow, a Catholic media commentator in the UK who had helped the Evans family with some press requests, tweeted out Frigerio’s story on the evening of April 30. She was subsequently contacted by an admin for one of the “Alfie’s Army” social media accounts who told her that “the story was untrue and causing the family great distress.” She made public statements to that effect, and issued an apology, but left her tweets up “for transparency.” (Farrow told me that she has not communicated directly with the family since the day Alfie died.)
Farrow has since been absolutely savaged on social media, being threatened with prosecution, subjected to insults, and harassed for simply tweeting out a story she had every reason to believe was true. (I personally made an attempt to engage with some of those attacking her on Twitter, and found them to have no interest in reasonable discourse.)
Faced with such aggressive backlash, and having been told by an admin of the Alfie’s Army group claiming contact with the family that the story was false, Farrow apologized for tweeting the story, and asked Frigerio to retract it. She then stated as much publicly:
This has not stopped the online lynch mobs. Farrow tweeted earlier today that “there is a group of lawyers engaging with troll accounts urging for me to be prosecuted and investigated and spreading this false information.” Farrow claims that she can “only say what I have been told. She [Frigerio] published story. AA [Alfie’s Army – Ed.] admin messaged me and said it wasn’t true, causing distress, yet they are sticking with story & have translated page into English.”
Making the matter more confusing, LifeNews.com — not to be confused with our friends and colleagues at LifeSiteNews.com — contacted Farrow on Twitter and asked her about the drug claim. She responded:
— Caroline Farrow (@CF_Farrow) May 1, 2018
LifeNews.com then proceeded to issue their own report claiming that Alfie Evans’ family had refuted the report of the boy being given “four unknown drugs just before he died.” They provided no additional sourcing for their story.
Frigerio, meanwhile, has stood her ground on her reporting.
Today, I contacted Riccardo Cascioli, Editor in Chief of NBQ. Cascioli stands by Frigerio’s story, and confirms that they have “sources related to an eyewitness”. Cascioli also told me that the Evans family has not contacted NBQ to request that Frigerio’s story be retracted.
As misinformation and conflicting reports muddy the waters of what really happened in little Alfie’s final hours, it is Alder Hey and the NHS that stand the most to gain from continued confusion. If Tom Evans did, as Frigerio claims, make some agreement with the hospital to obtain “more oxygen and more life support” for his son, then he may never be legally allowed to disclose what he saw that night.
Two questions thus remain, both of them pressing: was Alfie administered some cocktail of medications that accelerated or even caused his death? If so, was the administration of such medications intended to have that effect?
Michael Hichborn, President of The Lepanto Institute, spoke with me about what an affirmative answer to these questions might mean. “Withdrawal of food and air as a means of euthanasia is certainly important, in England, that isn’t a crime,” Hichborn said, “but direct euthanasia with drugs is.” Hichborn said the he believes “At the least, this calls for a criminal investigation.”
We cannot stop asking about how Alfie died.
Alfie Evans was a baptized Catholic. He was below the age of reason, and incapable of voluntary sin. We may rest assured that he, at least, is in heaven. But his family has been put through hell, and they are not alone. Cascioli insisted to me that whatever happened with the drugs Alfie was given, the kind of slow killing that comes from the withdrawal of oxygen, nutrition, and the like, is all-too-common. “They normally kill people. Kill children. Alfie is not an exception, they practice euthanasia on a daily basis.”
That is the deeper tragedy in all of this. May God have mercy on our souls.
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.