Little Alfie Evans is perhaps hours away from death. And we have to ask where the blame for this lies, if any. It is one thing to say this was just a terminal case and leave it at that. It is another thing to see how the modern secular state is in fact weighing in on all this.
That is, it has been routine of late for the state to determine who should live and who should die. Too many examples of this can be mentioned here. One recent high-profile case of this involved little Charlie Gard. He too was told he had to die, despite the protests of his parents, and despite possible treatment options that could have been tried but were denied them.
I penned two pieces on that sad case last year:
As can be seen, there are some similarities between these two situations, including: the state (judges, courts, etc) deciding on the fate of a young child; parents being denied their basic desires in these cases; overseas doctors offering treatment, and so on. The details are as follows:
Alfie Evans was born May 9, 2016 in Liverpool to Tom Evans and Kate James. He developed a chest infection resulting in seizures and was placed on life support at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool in December 2016. The doctors there said it is in his “best interests” to have his life support removed.
Tom and Katie have been fighting all this as much as they can, including with various court cases and appeals along the way. Lately they have been fighting to take the 23-month-old to Italy for possible treatment, but a UK judge has ruled that he cannot do so.
He had been on a ventilator, then off, then on again, and it was just ordered to be removed several days ago, but Alfie has been breathing by himself since that time. Most recently Tom Evans has said that Alfie is being starved to death by the hospital.
There is a website devoted to saving Alfie, including updates and a petition you can sign: https://www.savealfieevans.com/
It is now an hour by hour development, and things could be quite different by the time this article is posted. But once again it is the big ticket ethical items that must be discussed here. Questions about the sanctity of life and who decides who should live and who should die are once again raised here.
Needless to say, plenty has been written on this case already and likely much more will be forthcoming. Let me simply run with a few commentators here. Let me start with some words from ethicist Wesley J Smith:
It is unconscionable that a hospital would both want to terminate efficacious-life extending treatment and prevent the parents from transferring the baby to a hospital willing to continue care. Realize, the hospital wants the treatment terminated, including tube-supplied food and water, because it works, — e.g., it is keeping the baby alive — rather than because it is ineffective.
This is an example of a bioethics meme called “futile care,” in which doctors are allowed to refuse wanted treatment if they believe the quality of the patient’s life isn’t worth living. Such coercion happens in the U.S. too. But I know of no cases here in which a family is both banned from requiring care to continue and from transferring their loved one to a different facility willing to provide continued care. Let us hope the court in Alfie’s case both requires life-support to continue and/or allows the transfer. Forcing this baby to die when there is no diagnosis would be an act of naked medical authoritarianism.
And more recently he wrote:
The technocracy has ruled that it is in this child’s “best interests” to die now! And so die he will. You see, Alfie might be able to defy the odds with his breathing. But no one can survive being deprived of sustenance. And that now appears to be the course being taken by doctors, as Alfie’s dad says his son has been “starved from nutrition for 23 hours.” How can that be, Wesley? ANH, “artificial nutrition and hydration,” e.g., sustenance delivered through a tube, is considered a medical treatment and “life support.”
Medical treatments — including life support — can be withheld or withdrawn (usually requiring patient or family consent) as part of patient autonomy. But sometimes, in “futile care” cases — such as this one — it is forced off against a patient or family’s will. So, if Alfie keeps breathing on his own, and if he is being deprived of ANH, he will die slowly of dehydration. How is that in his best interests?
In pondering all of this, remember that the cause of Alfie’s progressive neurological collapse remains undiagnosed. A quality children’s hospital in Italy is willing to take over his care. An air ambulance is ready to fly him to Italy, and Alfie was made a citizen to facilitate that transfer. The doctors were wrong about his inability to breathe on his own. What else might they be mistaken about?
Matt Walsh begins his piece on this case with these words:
When the death certificate for Alfie Evans is issued, under “cause of death” it ought to say this: pride. The pride of a judge who did not want his judgment questioned. The pride of doctors who did not want to be proven wrong. The pride of a government that claims authority over life and death. “Tyranny” and “unconscionable evil” could also be cited.
There is no way to justify this. It is explicitly, unabashedly evil. A hospital is holding a child hostage against the will of his parents, and the courts are barring the family from boarding a helicopter and leaving the country. This is kidnapping and murder. And we should be very clear about the motivations of the villains in this story. What lies behind their actions is pride. Simple, disgusting, murderous pride.
The judge has made himself into a god who gets to write the final chapter in a young boy’s life. The doctors who are fighting for the right to kill him have also made themselves lords over life and death. And both parties in this unholy alliance would rather see the boy die a slow and agonizing death than risk him going to some other country and further embarrassing them by showing signs of improvement. That is why they are killing Alfie Evans. And may God have mercy on them for it.
Finally, some words by Ben Shapiro:
Europe is in serious trouble. And that trouble is self-imposed. We may be watching the end of the Judeo-Christian morality that protected children and women, increasingly supplanted by the new morality of bureaucratic rule from above — a rule concerned mostly with quashing dissent and treating citizens as subjects.
And in a newer piece he said this:
The courts declared that Evans’ best interests are not served by his parents’ attempts to save his life. Instead, the little boy would be deprived of life support, left to die without oxygen or water. The ruling, the judge said, “represents the final chapter in the life of this extraordinary little boy.” But that chapter was written by the British bureaucracy, not by his parents — the ones who will have to engrave his epitaph and visit his grave.
He also looks at the Gard case and continues:
All of this is the final result of a system of thought that places parental control of children below the expertise of bureaucrats on the scale of priorities. It’s one thing for the government to step in when parents are preventing children from receiving life-saving care. It’s another when the government steps in to prevent parents from pursuing potentially life-saving care. And yet that’s just what has happened repeatedly in the United Kingdom.
Why? Why would British society place parents’ wishes below the wishes of the state? Because a bureaucratic society of experts generally sees parents as an obstacle to proper development. Parents, in this view, treat their children as chattel to be owned and trained — but the state can treat children with the dignity they are due. This means placing parental wishes to the side in every case in which those wishes come into conflict with the priorities of the state.
A very incisive summary statement of this whole mess was made by Ed Condon: “In Britain, you can fly your loved one to Switzerland to end their life. But if you try to fly your son to Italy to preserve his, the police will literally hold him hostage till he dies.”
It is getting all rather scary out there. Sure, these are admittedly hard and difficult cases, not always with easy answers. But that is all the more reason to allow parents a bit more freedom in such matters, and to take away some of the inordinate power of the state in these areas.
Otherwise things will only get worse.