LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Britain’s Supreme Court has approved a hospital plan for the withdrawing of life support for Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old child whose parents have been fighting a legal battle to keep him alive.
Thomas Evans, the boy’s father, met with Pope Francis on Wednesday, and pleaded with the pontiff to do all in his power to help his child.
Alfie has an undiagnosed brain disease, and Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool has argued that any further treatment would be futile, and not in Alfie’s interest.
Evans, 21, and his partner Kate James, 20, have fought an ongoing legal battle to allow them to take Alfie abroad for treatment.
The Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù children’s hospital in Rome has offered to admit the child and treat him, but the British courts have not let Alfie’s parents remove him from Alder Hey.
During the pope’s general audience, which took place immediately after his meeting with Evans, Francis asked for prayers for Alfie, and said it is “our duty to do everything to preserve life.”
“I would like to reiterate and forcefully confirm that the only master of life, from the beginning to its natural conclusion, is God!” Francis said.
On Friday, the UK Supreme Court said the Liverpool hospital is “free to do what has been determined to be in Alfie’s best interests.”
The court also refused to allow an appeal of their decision and added “there will be no further stay of the Court of Appeal’s order.”
The family’s lawyers from the Christian Legal Centre said they are planning an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, although the British court said the European court could not change the decision.
“Some people wrongly think that this case is purely about permission for Alder Hey to turn off Alfie’s life support. It is not. There are indeed times where life is, completely artificially, being sustained, and support of some kind must tragically be turned off. This is not Alfie’s situation,” said Andrea Minichiello Williams, Christian Legal Centre’s chief executive, in a statement on April 20.
“He remains undiagnosed. There are other, excellent hospitals ready to continue caring for Alfie and attempting to help. An air ambulance crew was blocked from taking Alfie to one of these hospitals – first by Alder Hey, then by the courts,” she said.
“No one is forcing Alder Hey to keep treating Alfie indefinitely. They are being asked to stand down, pass the medical records on, and allow others to treat him. It is this that Alder Hey has been fighting, tooth and nail,” she continued.
Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi, in northern Italy, who helped arrange the meeting between Francis and Alfie’s father, said on Wednesday the British position 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.
After the Supreme Court decision, Alfie’s parents issued a statement saying: “Our son’s life is not futile. We love him. We value him. There are people willing to treat him and we have the state saying ‘It’s not worth giving him the chance’.”