Legal battle toddler dies after life support withdrawn

A terminally-ill toddler at the centre of a legal battle between his parents and a Liverpool hospital in northwest England died early on Saturday days after doctors withdrew life support treatment following a court ruling.

The inconsolable parents of 23-month-old Alfie Evans (pictured: Action4Alfie)  wrote on Facebook their “baby grew his wings at 2.30 am.”

Thomas Evans and Kate James lost final court appeal on Wednesday.  They wanted to take their child to Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) paediatric hospital in Rome to save him. Last week, the couple met Pope Francis who had supported their move to explore other avenues of treatment.

Italy granted citizenship to the toddler on Monday so that his transfer to the hospital in Rome could be expedited if his parents win the appeal.

 

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool argued in court that keeping him on a ventilator in a vegetative state was not only futile but also unkind and inhumane.

Alfie’s case reignited the debate on how ethical are the decisions of courts and hospitals when parents are treated as bystanders and their belief that their child can be saved elsewhere is ignored by them.

In 2014, parents of Ashya King saved him by defying British doctors and taking him to the Czech capital Prague for proton beam therapy.

While this may be a miracle cure, from the legal angle, British parents cannot demand a particular treatment to be continued where the burden of treatment outweighs the benefits for the child.

Alfie’s father on Saturday thanked supporters, who had staged a series of angry vigils outside Alder Hey Hospital, and requested them to go home.

The hospital said in its condolence message that it had been a devastating journey for Alfie’s family as well as for the hospital staff who were subjected to online abuse by protesters.

Pope Francis said he was deeply moved by the death of little Alfie.

“Today I pray especially for his parents, as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace,” the pontiff wrote on his Twitter account.

Two years back, another boy, Charlie Gard, was born with a rare form of mitochondrial disease. His parents fought a  five-month legal battle to take him out of the local hospital for experimental treatment in the US. Their request was turned down by a court. Gard died a week before his first birthday last year after  doctors withdrew life support treatment.