The parents of Alfie Evans, the toddler dying of a degenerative neurological condition, lost their last-ditch appeal to Britain’s High Court Wednesday. It was the toddler’s last chance for medical help as his parents wished, though apparently the UK wished otherwise.
Twenty-three-month-old Evans has been at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for over a year, as his health has slowly worsened. His parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, have been locked in a legal battle with the hospital, which wanted to — and ultimately did — pull his life support on Monday. Desperate to save him, the couple has publicly pleaded for help; Italy responded in the form of offering the boy citizenship and medical intervention. Still, the High Court refused to grant permission for Evans’ parents to let him go to Italy or provide the medical intervention he would need to live.
“Alfie doesn’t need intensive care any more,” Tom Evans said from outside the hospital Wednesday, the BBC reported. “Alfie is lying on the bed with one litre of oxygen going into his lungs and the rest is him. Some people say it’s a miracle, it’s not a miracle, it’s a misdiagnosis.”
Cambridge News reported that Sir Andrew McFarlane, one of the highest-ranking family court judges in the UK, headed a panel of three judges at the London-based court in a hearing Wednesday. While McFarlane seemed to empathize with Evans’ parents somewhat, he also said, “What rights others have, particularly the parents, falls into a subsidiary category….” This remark by McFarlane — that parents rights are subsidiary — highlights the grave injustice for which both the hospital and Britain’s court system are responsible.
To add to the already Orwellian feel of this scenario, local police sent this tweet:
We've issued a statement this evening to make people aware that social media posts which are being posted in relation to Alder Hey and the Alfie Evans situation are being monitored and may be acted upon. Read the full statement here: https://t.co/epopt5bhmY
— Merseyside Police (@MerseyPolice) April 25, 2018
Not only does the UK want to strip these parents of their right to care for their child, but they want to monitor anyone who disagrees with this appalling legal decision. This is what happens when a police state and state-sanctioned healthcare work together — at least in the UK. This is at least the third time this has occurred quite publicly, which would lead observers to believe this is a feature of England’s views on liberty, not a bug.
Now, Evans’ parents have no recourse but to remain in the hospital watching him take labored breaths, or to try to take him home. Whether Alfie Evans should continue to remain on life support isn’t even the heart of the issue here. The issue is who has the right to decide whether someone lives or dies. Does a hospital? Does a court system? The two have colluded together in this particular scenario with a dystopic authoritarianism. It makes me question whether the UK values free speech or liberty at all.
Right now, the hospital and court system are not simply letting Evans die, they are quite literally forcing death upon him by refusing to let him receive the care his parents wish for him. This is particularly disgusting now that he has breathed on his own for three nights, demonstrating the hospital staff was wrong about his original prognosis. What if medical professionals in Rome correctly diagnosed and could help Evans? Or at least offer proper palliative care?
One member of Parliament, Steven Woolfe, is taking action. He’s launching a campaign for “Alfie’s Law” to give parents of terminally ill children more freedom to make decisions. He said: “The cases of Charlie Gard, Ashya King, and now Alfie Evans, show a dangerous trend of public bodies depriving parents and families of the right to make decisions they believe are in the best interests of their children. Parents’ rights should neither be ignored nor dismissed as irrelevant by hospitals and courts, who believe they know best and have the power, money, and resources to overwhelm families who simply want to save their child.”
While it’s encouraging to see some members of Parliament are doing something to prevent this in the future, it’s despicable that Evans and his parents, along with Charlie Gard and his family, had to pave the way for such a laws. Parental rights should not need to be legislated at all but should be inherent. In a police state like the UK, which boasts socialized medicine, apparently they need to be.