Monday, April 23, 2018
Alfie’s Last Hour
As I write, at noon Rome time, Alfie Evans has one hour to live.
His breathing tube will be removed at 1 p.m. Rome time.
But this letter is not just about Alfie’s life — supremely valuable as the life of any individual human being is.
It is about the life of our whole civilization, which stands before the moment of its condemnation.
It stands before the moment of its condemnation for openly, legally, with various and sundry “reasonable” arguments, embracing “the culture of death,” the culture of the “useful,” of the “utilitarian,” the culture which rejects the principle rightly enunciated the other day by Pope Francis: that only Almighty God is the “author of life” and may take life.
The culture that rejects the very notion of such an Almighty God.
A “post-God” culture.
Alfie’s death is about the rejection of the fundamental belief of our Western Christian civilization, that some things are sacred, inviolable, always to be guarded, protected and respected.
In Liverpool, England, a ventilator through which 23-month-old Alfie, stricken with an unknown illness a year and a half ago, breathes… is scheduled to removed at 1 p.m. Rome time.
By the decision of his doctors, and and the support of the British Supreme Court… and against the wishes and will of his parents, Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, who had asked permission to remove the child from the Liverpool hospital and to transport him to the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital in Rome, where the hospital administration was prepared to continue to research a remedy for Alfie’s unknown illness.
This is the legal decision which makes this case so tragic.
Some will argue that Alfie’s brain has been judged incurably harmed, that he will never recover.
However, some doctors in various coutries say they are not persuaded that this is the case, and have proposed that other therapies might be tried which might be effective in helping Alfie.
This is the point: no alternative is being allowed, though some (even if they be few) believe there might be an alternative.
Some will say — and the Catholic bishops of Britain have said, in a statement (see article below) — that there can be no question that the hospital and its doctors gave the best possible care to Alfie.
But there can be such a question, because doctors are human, and humans are imperfect, and some of the treatments that Alfie received — some of the any vaccinatios and drugs that he received — may possibly have contributed to his condition.
And it is the parents who should have the primary right to make medical decisions for their child — not the Liverpool hospital, and not the British high court.
This case becomes one more precedent in the long process diminishing the primary rights of the mother and father to care for their child.
Here is an image of the final page of the legal decision of Britain’s highest court, with the tree signatures of the judges:
This legal decision states that it is in Alfie’s “best interests” to die, rather than to be cared for while additional research is done which might possibly lead, eventually, to the improvement of his condition.
This is how Alfie will die (link):
“With regard to the process of suspension of ventilation, at 1 p.m., through a small tube a preparation of Midazolam (an anxiolytic) and Fentanyl (an analgesic) will be administered, the amount subsequently to be increased to control the symptoms, if necessary. The Hospital will provide for the aspiration of the mouth and the airways as well as the care of the same mouth.
“Alfie will be carefully placed on Mr. Evans and Ms. James’s laps if they wish, otherwise he will remain in his crib.
“All Alfie’s heartbeat monitoring and breathing will be disconnected.
“The respirator tube will be disconnected from the ventilator and will be removed.
“From that moment on, the medical staff will continue to observe Alfie’s situation and the level of comfort and to wait for her needs and those of her family, with discretion, but ready to provide support and comfort with solicitude.
“Once all external signs of life have ceased, an expert doctor will physically examine Alfie to ascertain his death and record the time of death.
“After the death has been confirmed, the family can wash the body, dress it and spend time with it, before transferring it to a special room where the whole family can have access.
“The doctor who has confirmed Alfie’s death will have to contact the coroner for all the formalities related to the issue of the death certificate.”
And thus little Alfie will pass from this world.
Alfie is a baptized Catholic, and recently received the last rites of the Church.
May his soul rest in peace. May eternal light shine upon him.
And may we on this day of Alfie’s death re-dedicate ourselves to the principle of the sacrality, the sacredness, of human life, from conception to natural death… especially the life of the most innocent.
And let us pray for Alfie, and his parents, and all who have been involved in this case.
For the dawn of the culture for which nothing is sacred, for which everything may be justified, for which man’s will replaces God’s will, is upon us…
Such a cutlure may become very cruel, even it its decisions are presented with smooth and soothing words…
The following article was published this morning by Vaticanist Sandro Magister. It gives a useful summary of the stages of this case, including the role of Pope Francis in revent days.
Alfie Evans’s Easter. Day by day, a chronology (link)
By Sandro Magister
Before Easter there was Lent. Starting with that dramatic February 20 on which the supreme court in London ruled that little Alfie Evans, 22 months, afflicted with an unknown and incurable neurological disease and a patient at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, must be put to death by the removal of his ventilation.
In the ruling, Judge Anthony Hayden includes by way of justification a passage from the message on the end of life that Pope Francis sent on November 7, 2017 to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the pontifical academy for life.
No protest from Rome over this exploitative use of the pope’s words. It took until March 8 for a powerful voice to be raised at the highest levels of the Church, that of Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, 90, a bioethicist of international fame and president of the pontifical academy for life from 2005 to 2008.
But on March 9, in an interview with “Tempi,” Archbishop Paglia agreed with the London judge in everything.
The days went by and the mobilization grew in defense of the life of Alfie, inspired by his parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, both in their early twenties, he a Catholic, she an Anglican.
Easter came and on April 4, Wednesday of the week “in albis,” Pope Francis broke his silence for the first time with a tweet: “It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans…”
On April 13, Friday of the second week of Easter, the archdiocese of Liverpool also spoke out, with a statement from its spokesman. But in a completely different tone. It laments that Alfie’s parents and the hospital authorities “were unable to agree on a programme” to interrupt the respiration for the child. It registers with disappointment the demonstrations of support for Alfie around the hospital. It notes the efforts of the auxiliary bishop of Liverpool, Tom Williams, in “support to doctors,” but without meeting with the little one’s parents, who “are not Roman Catholic.” It acknowledges the continuation of prayers “for Alfie, his family and those who accompany him on this journey.”
The next day, Tom Evans wrote to the archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm Patrick McMahon, to express his sorrow over the statement, remind him that both he and Alfie were baptized in the Catholic Church, and ask him for help in “[taking] our child out of Great Britain to be cured until the natural end of his earthly existence.” The pediatric hospital to which the parents would like to transfer Alfie is that of Bambino Gesù in Rome, which expressed its willingness last summer and sent some of its physicians to Liverpool.
But from the archdiocese, no response. Even the chaplain of Alder Hey Children’s Hospital has made himself unavailable for the requests of Alfie’s parents.
But on April 15, the third Sunday of Easter, it was Pope Francis who spoke out, and this time in a loud voice, at the Regina Caeli, associating with Alfie the case of a 42-year-old Frenchman:
“I entrust to your prayers the people, such as Vincent Lambert in France, little Alfie Evans in England, and others in various countries, who live, at times for long periods, in a state of severe infirmity, medically assisted in their basic needs. These are delicate, very painful and complex situations. Let us pray that every sick person may always be respected in his/her dignity, and cared for in a way suited to his/her condition, with the unanimous support of family members, physicians and other healthcare professionals, with great respect for life.”
That same day, the president of the pontifical academy for life, Archbishop Paglia, also released a statement in line with what the pope had said and in correction of what he had previously stated.
The next day, however, the situation came to a head. In the morning, an Italian priest stationed in London, Fr. Gabriele Brusco, administered the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to little Alfie. But in the afternoon, the English court of appeals rejected the appeal of Alfie’s parents against the death sentence for their little boy. Tom and Kate then decided to make a further appeal to the supreme court of the United Kingdom. And they tried to obtain a meeting with Pope Francis. With them, in Liverpool, was a writer for the Italian Catholic website La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Benedetta Frigerio, who made contact with the right person to forward the request to Rome: Bishop Francesco Cavina, who worked for many years in the secretariat of state before becoming, in 2011, bishop of Carpi.
And in fact, with lightning rapidity, on the morning of Tuesday, April 17 came the reply from Francis, who gave Tom an appointment on the following morning, before the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter’s Square.
On the afternoon of April 17 Tom left Liverpool and, after one nighttime stop in Athens, was able to arrive in Rome just in time for the meeting with the pope.
The meeting took place at Santa Marta at 9 in the morning of April 18, Wednesday of the third week of Easter, and lasted 20 minutes. Tom Evans presented Francis with a written appeal and told him about the battle underway for Alfie’s life. The pope encouraged and blessed him: “Well said, Thomas, you are defending your son with courage, the same courage with which God defends his children.”
An hour later, at the end of the general audience in Saint Peter’s Square, the pope launched a new public appeal. He called for prayers for Alfie and for others like him, and insisted on what had been said at the meeting that had just taken place: that “the one Master of life, from the beginning to the natural end, is God.”
Bishop Cavina was also present at the meeting at Santa Marta, and Pope Francis ordered him to set to work together with the secretariat of state to ensure the transfer of Alfie to the hospital of the Bambino Gesù, which is owned by the Holy See.
Not only that. The pope communicated to the president of the hospital, Mariella Enoc, his personal encouragement to “do the possible and the impossible.” On the same day, Mariella Enoc met with Tom Evans and agreed with the secretariat of state on the composition of two letters to the directors and legal department of Liverpool aimed at establishing a close collaboration in view of Alfie’s transfer to Roma and of the opening new scientific research on his illness.
In the afternoon, however, of this same Wednesday, April 18, the episcopal conference of England and Wales published a statement to the completely opposite effect.
In it, the bishops reject as “unfounded” the criticisms of the decisions of the tribunals and of the hospital in Liverpool concerning the fate of little Alfie. It takes note of the “offer” of the Roman hospital of the Bambino Gesù to take over his care, but makes it clear that they, the bishops, do not want to have anything to do with it, because “it is for that hospital [of the Bambino Gesù – editor’s note] 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.”
One seems to read, in this chilly statement from the English bishops, the same things that Archbishop Paglia had been maintaining until a few weeks before. And in effect, he had gone to Great Britain at the end of 2017, meeting with the leaders of the English episcopal conference and examining with them the cases of Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans, and other children in similar conditions.
It is difficult to foresee what will come of this startling divergence between Pope Francis and the English bishops, with nothing less than a child’s life at stake.
On whom, however, there fell on Friday, April 20 the final ruling of the supreme court of the United Kingdom, with the definitive confirmation that it is “in his own best interest” that Alfie be put to death.
The child’s parents are not giving up. They are making a further appeal to Strasbourg, to the European court of human rights. But this is a step that the English supreme court itself defines as useless, when in its ruling it recalls that the same European court had previously judged an appeal from Alfie’s parents as “inadmissible,” and concludes:
“There is also no reason for further delay. The hospital must be free to do what has been determined in Alfie’s best interests. That is the law in this country. No application of the European Court of Human Rights Strasbourg can or should change that.”
That same day, the president of the pediatric hospital of the Bambino Gesù, Mariella Enoc, sent to the director of the hospital in Liverpool a touching letter – afterward published in “L’Osservatore Romano” – by a group of mothers of children with illnesses “in some cases very similar to those of the little Evans.” “Our children,” they write, “are not suffering, they are only living. And still today they have been able to feel upon their faces the beauty and warmth of the sun and of our caresses. We plead with you not to deprive of the joy of these caresses little Alfie and his parents.”
And that brings us to Sunday, April 22. At the Regina Caeli, Pope Francis was silent. He had said what he wanted to say. It was the fourth Sunday of Easter, the Sunday of the Good Shepherd. Alfie’s last Easter.
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)