Friday, April 20, 2018
Alfie Appeal Rejected

The BBC is reporting as follows this afternoon (link):

“The parents of terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans have lost the latest stage of their legal battle over his life support.

“Tom Evans and Kate James failed to persuade the Supreme Court that Alfie was being unlawfully detained at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

“The court also refused permission for the parents to appeal the decision.

“Judges said the hospital must be ‘free to do what has been determined to be in Alfie’s best interests.'”

The words of the Court are chilling because the action that the hospital has determined will be “in Alfie’s best interests” is his removal from breathing equipment, wothout which he will die.

So the doctors, in this case, have determined that it is in the child’s best interests to die.

The doctors have made this decision in spite of the fact that the parents, Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, would like to take the child to Italy, where officials at the Bambino Gesu (“The Child Jesus”) hospital have said they would be willing to take the child, to see if there might be any other treatment which might help him. (link)

The child seemed normal and healthy in the first six months of his life, then began to fall sick and, after a number of medical tretaments, as well as a course of numerous vaccinations, fell into a coma.

However, he occasionally still opens his eyes. Some in his circle of supporters believe he should undergo a treatment of thorough “de-toxification” — but he would a ventilator to keep breathing, even if some new course of treatment could possibly assist him.

And the appeal to continue using the ventilator while transporting th child out of the hospital is what the High Court has refused to grant.

Pope Francis has instructed an Italian bishop, Francesco Cavina of Carpi, to follow this case on his behalf. Cavina has said it is “beyond all human logic” for the British hospital, and High Court to refuse to let Alfie come to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome. Here is a Crux news article on the case by Charles Collins. (link)

Italian bishop: Refusal to let Alfie Evans come to Vatican hospital “beyond all human logic”

By Charles Collins

Apr 19, 2018

LEICESTER, United Kingdom — Everything is ready to receive Alfie Evans at a Vatican-owned children’s hospital in Rome, according to the bishop tasked with acting as a go-between for the Evans family and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi, in northern Italy, helped arrange a meeting with Pope Francis and Alfie’s father, Thomas Evans, on Wednesday morning.

The 23-month-old English child has an undiagnosed brain disease, and Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool wants to remove his life support against his parents’ wishes.

The Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù children’s hospital has offered to admit the child and treat him.

Evans, 21, and his partner Kate James, 20, have fought an ongoing legal battle to allow them to take Alfie abroad.

The British courts have sided with the hospital, however, and a date was set for the removal of Alfie’s ventilator last week. However, the parents appealed the decision. The Appellate Court on Monday refused to allow Alfie to leave the country, and the case is now with the UK Supreme Court.

Cavina said the Vatican is trying to accommodate the transfer of Alfie to Rome but admitted “there are major difficulties from a legislative and legal point of view. We will see if it’s possible to overcome them.”

The bishop has been following the case from Italy and prayed for Alfie during the Easter Vigil in his cathedral, and for “all children deprived of the right to life.” (…)

“The Holy Father has instructed me to maintain contacts with the Secretariat of State so that the Bambino Gesù will be fully prepared to welcome Alfie into its health facility. And so that’s what we’re trying to do now,” Cavina said.

The bishop said Francis said he admired the courage Evans has, especially give his youth, to defend his son’s life.

“At one point he [Francis] even said the courage of this father is similar to the love God has for humanity; he does not resign himself to losing us. And I think that was the most moving moment,” he told Vatican News.

“Alfie’s father — I must say — came out very reassured. At the end of the meeting, when we were alone, he was very moved and said: ‘I do not believe it! I do not believe in what the Holy Father told me!’ …To arrive today they made an absurd journey: They had to go to Athens and then from Athens to Rome — so they practically traveled all night long, and are profoundly exhausted,” the bishop explained.

But he admitted there was a long road ahead, since “if we cannot find a willingness on the part of the judges and the British hospital, everything becomes much more difficult.”

Evans said he was “very fortunate” to meet with the pontiff, and he believes Francis “will do what he can to save Alfie.”

In an interview with Zenit, a Catholic news agency, Evans said the pope wanted to know more about Alfie, and what the situation was for children in the United Kingdom.

“And I let him know how they are treating the disabled children, and while euthanasia is not legal over there, but for some reason they think it is legal to euthanize these children,” he said.

“From the look on Pope Francis’s face, as you know, I do not understand Italian, but he looked very touched. He was listening and making eye contact. For me, that was the most important thing about the meeting,” he said.

After news of the meeting broke, the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales put out their first statement on Alfie Evans, saying that, “With the Holy Father, we pray that, with love and realism, everything will be done to accompany Alfie and his parents in their deep suffering.”

The bishops also defended Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, saying they were convinced “that all those who are and have been taking the agonizing decisions regarding the care of Alfie Evans act with integrity and for Alfie’s good as they see it.”

“The professionalism and care for severely ill children shown at Alder Hey Hospital is to be recognized and affirmed. We know that recently reported public criticism of their work is unfounded as our chaplaincy care for the staff, and indeed offered to the family, has been consistently provided,” the statement said.

The bishops’ statement also said it was for Bambino Gesù to “present to the British Courts, where crucial decisions in conflicts of opinion have to be taken, the medical reasons for an exception to be made in this tragic case.”

The president of the Bambino Gesù, Mariella Enoc, said “it is a bit difficult for us to understand why they will not allow him to be transported.”

In an interview with Avvenire — the daily newspaper published by the Italian bishops’ conference — Enoc said the “parents should take responsibility” of the treatment of their children.

“Today we can treat without causing suffering. The Church does not want people to die suffering; you can give drugs that also make the transition to death less painful. I am not a bioethicist, but I believe that if it can be done without suffering, then treatment is due,” she said.

Cavina also doesn’t understand the British position, saying it is “beyond all human logic.”

“Two parents are asking to transfer their child from one hospital to another. I do not understand why this should be prevented: If not in Italy, then in another hospital in England. It is difficult to understand something like this,” the bishop said.

Here is a recent National Review article on this case. (link)

This Is What Medical Authoritarianism Looks Like


April 13, 2018 11:25 AM

The Alfie Evans saga continues to roil the U.K., and it is increasingly looking like the Terri Schiavo case.

One huge difference: Instead of an abandoning husband embroiled in a life and death struggle with a blood family — as in Terri’s situation — in Alfie’s case, the family is united in wanting Alfie’s life maintained so they can transfer him to an Italian hospital which, they claim, has agreed to offer continued care and a peg feeding tube that allows for more comfortable and effective long-term care.

But they are being thwarted by the doctors and the courts, both of which refuse to continue life support and are preventing the family from removing Alfie to a different hospital — even though the cause of his cognitive collapse has not been diagnosed. The technocracy has decided Alfie should die, and so die he will!

Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, are continuing to fight — supported by a large protest at the hospital entrance demanding justice. A lawyer wrote a letter to Tom and Kate opining that they had the legal right to remove their son from the hospital. (Me: They should have that right, but I doubt they do because of previous court orders.) When they tried to do so, they were stopped by police. From the Daily Mail story:

Police were called last night as Mr Evans brought their passports and declared they were going to take ‘his flight out to Italy’ but claims six officers were then brought in to guard his room to stop it.

Mr Evans said a jet was waiting at John Lennon airport and it is understood he plans to take his son to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital in Rome for diagnosis and possible treatment after they received backing from Pope Francis.

A press release supportive of Tom and Kate — the full contents of which has not been publicly reported, so I can’t verify its accuracy — states that a judge has now stripped them of their parental rights, ordering that Alfie become a ward of the court to further thwart the parents’ efforts to seek further treatment and care for their son. If true, that order could conceivably become a pretext to prevent Tom and Kate from visiting their son. (See update.)

This is what medical authoritarianism looks like.

A few thoughts about this tragedy:

• “Futile care” impositions are not medical decisions, but values judgments about the benefit of continued care that is working, e.g., keeping the patient alive. The doctors and courts believe Alfie should die sooner rather than later, the parents want to keep trying to find what is causing their son’s cognitive collapse and to maintain his life regardless of whether a cure can be found.

• The judge ruled essentially that as a matter of law, Alfie is better off dead than in his current deeply troubling circumstances which include “semi-vegetative state” (whatever that means) accompanied by seizures and a degenerating condition. The parents disagree. Surely, in such cases they should have the final say, not strangers.

• Coercion destroys the peoples’ trust in the health-care system. This problem will grow more pronounced as the cost containment paradigm becomes increasingly backed by an iron fist.

• Health care is a major battle front in the culture wars that are roiling the West.

• Finally, isn’t it wonderful that so many people care so much about the life of a helpless little boy. The sanctity of life ethic isn’t dead yet!

We have had similar cases in this country — with the important exception that I don’t know of any cases in which doctors thwarted a patient’s transfer to alternative care (although in the Baby Terry case in Michigan, the parents lost their parental rights in court solely because they refused to permit life-support to be withdrawn).

I find it bitterly ironic that some of the same bioethicists who believe doctors should be able to impose futile care treatment terminations based on their conscientious objections to continued care, also opine that doctors who don’t want to participate in abortion, assisted suicide, or other morally contentious elective acts in the medical context should be forced legally to do so upon threat of professional discipline.

It is a topsy-turvy world. Expect more such controversies and for them to grow increasingly bitter.

Update: I am aware that in the heat of furious public controversy, one side or the other may make announcements that later turn out to be false. Hence, I was wary of the press announcement that Tom and Kate’s parental rights had been removed — which I stated in the original version of this post could not be verified through public sources. My caution was justified. They continue to have official custody of their son — for all the good it is doing them in making treatment decisions about his care.

WESLEY J. SMITH — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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