United Kingdom (MNN) — When it comes to medical ethics and the sanctity of human life, who gets to decide which lives have value? That is the question surrounding the recent case of a toddler in the United Kingdom.
Alfie Evans was a 23-month-old boy born healthy to parents Tom Evans and Kate James in the United Kingdom. But Alfie was eventually hospitalized with seizures and spent over a year in Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
Doctors were unable to definitively diagnose the toddler as his condition worsened to a semi-vegetative state. They guessed he had a degenerative neurological condition.
In December 2017, the hospital and Alfie’s parents disagreed over his further treatment. The hospital applied to the UK High Court to remove parental rights and withdraw Alfie’s life support.
Alfie’s parents appealed to take him to Rome for a second opinion and further treatment. The doctors at the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital were ready to receive and treat Alfie’s condition. Italy even granted Alfie emergency citizenship and the hospital had an air ambulance on standby.
But the UK High Court refused to release the Alfie to his parents and upheld the hospital’s decision to end life support.
The UK High Court acknowledged there was no evidence Alfie was suffering or in pain. However, the court’s decision included a statement from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, asserting that when “the severity of the child’s condition is such that it is difficult or impossible for them to derive benefit from continued life”, it is better to let them die.
Michele Shoun with Life Matters Worldwide says, “Most people, when they are faced with something like this, they want a second opinion and the family [was] denied that.
“It seems fairly common with some other cases that have come to our attention — Charlie Gard a year or so ago, and there [have] been a few others that I have read about recently. [These cases] seem to show how the National Health Service, their single-payer health service, is overtaking the rights of parents to make decisions.”
Alder Hey took Alfie off life support against his parents’ wishes on April 23rd. He survived an incredible five days. Doctors believed the toddler wouldn’t last even a few minutes without life support machines and didn’t give the toddler oxygen, water, or food for the first six hours. Eventually, they gave Alfie oxygen and hydration, although he was still off life support. Alfie finally passed away on April 28th.
Steven Woolfe, a member of the European Parliament and a political advocate for Alfie’s case, wrote on his Facebook page, “Any patient is entitled to a second opinion and there should be no obstruction to it. If a court seriously doubts Alfie´s parents lack his best interests on the grounds they are not medical specialists that is a tyranny of experts that every parent must now dread. To doubt so without any proof of ill intent is monstrous and sets out a government policy to nationalise our children.
“To decide specifically that a child is not allowed to be treated by another qualified and willing provider is to subject that child to non voluntary euthansia with withdrawal of treatment.”
The quality of life argument essentially made by the UK High Court in Alfie’s case is one the pro-life camp commonly hears. The argument is that “limited or poor” quality of life is enough justification to terminate that life. In Alfie’s case, the government deemed that not only was this justification to terminate his life, but that it would be illegal to further treat and sustain the toddler’s life.
“That’s the problem is when death is seen as a solution to quality of life…. We shouldn’t seek death as the solution for quality of life,” says Shoun.
“In the case of Alfie, they don’t have a real diagnosis and they’re guessing…. It’s not their role to ensure that someone dies. It’s one thing to say, ‘We can’t do anything more for this person. He is probably going to die.’ But to do things that ensure death is crossing a line and becomes euthanasia.”
Shoun says Christians need to remember and promote this truth that all human life is valuable because all life is created in the image of God according to His purpose.
“Every breath we take is from Him, and it’s that acknowledgement along with the sanctity of human life — that we don’t take life and we don’t take our own lives into our own hands and we don’t take the lives of other people into our hands, that we submit to God and give our life to Him — that’s, I think, the message that Life Matters would have for that.”
Please pray for Alfie’s parents as they mourn their son’s passing. Pray for our society to better promote the value of all human life and that more people would know the God who created them.
(Header photo courtesy of Alfies Army Official via Facebook)