LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A date has been set for the withdrawal of life support from a 23-month-old boy that Pope Francis tweeted about last week.
Alfie Evans has an undiagnosed brain disorder, which his doctors say has no medical cure.
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool treating the child said further treatment is futile and wish to turn off the boy’s respirator.
His parents lost a legal battle to move the child to another hospital outside Britain. The Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù children’s hospital in Rome offered to treat Alfie, although they agreed with the Liverpool hospital that there is no cure for his condition.
On April 4, Francis tweeted: “It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard. I am praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved.”
The hospital took the case back to court on Wednesday, since Alfie’s parents, Thomas Evans and Kate James, refused to agree to set a time for the removal of life support.
The boy’s parents made a last-ditch effort to save their child on Wednesday, when they were represented by a lawyer from the Christian Legal Centre.
“Thomas and Kate never leave Alfie’s side. They witness to his increasing responsiveness. The state cannot override their desire to seek further treatment for their son especially when such help is being offered by three different hospitals. The state must not pass and enforce a death sentence,” said Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the center.
It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard. I am praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 4, 2018
However, the High Court did not acquiesce to the request, and set a date and time for the life support to be withdrawn, although this information was not released to the press.
“We understand this is a difficult time for Alfie’s family and we would ask that their privacy is respected,” the hospital said in a statement.
The judge in the case, Anthony Hayden, said the decision “represented a consensus of medical expertise.”
“By the time I came to conclude the case the terrible reality is that almost the entirety of Alfie’s brain had been eroded, leaving only water and spinal fluid,” he said. “Even at the end of February the connective pathways within the brain had been obliterated. They were no longer even identifiable.”
Hayden had made the original decision to end Alfie’s life support on Feb. 20 and noted Alfie’s family’s efforts since that date to appeal it.
“That Alfie is a much-loved little boy is beyond any doubt,” he said. “Following my judgement Mr. Evans primarily pursued the case to the court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and on to the European Court of Human Rights. He told me he would leave no stone unturned and he was indeed true to his word.”
The judge noted Alfie “has lived most of his short life in the public domain.”
“I wish to emphasize that at this point Alfie is entitled to his privacy at the end of his life,” Hayden said.
Alfie’s dad posted on Facebook Tuesday that “Tomorrow could be the day [he] is executed.”
Evans has posted several videos of Alfie over the past few months, showing his son respond to him and his mother. Thousands of people – calling themselves Alfie’s Army – have been supporting the family.
On Tuesday, Evans voiced his frustration online, saying he should be allowed to take Alfie to Italy, “where they want to keep him alive and treat him and at least prepare us to take him home.”
“As I have said all along our son is not dying why should this have to happen to him?????” Evans wrote on Facebook.
Three experts from the Bambino Gesù hospital visited Evans in Liverpool in February and agreed with the British doctors that further treatment would be “complete futility” in finding a cure.
However, they offered to take the child to Rome to undergo operations which would help him breathe and receive food, keeping him alive for an “undefined period.”
Alfie’s case is drawing comparisons to that of Charlie Gard, the 11-month-old infant who died from a rare disease after a legal fight last summer.
The pope also expressed his support for Charlie and his family, and the Bambino Gesù hospital offered to treat him in Rome.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Alfie was diagnosed with encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. His condition has not been diagnosed. We apologize for the error.