Following the heartbreaking story of baby Charlie Gard last year another case has hit the headlines about 21 month old Alfie Evans.
In brief, Alfie was born in May 2016 and went home with his parents. By six months of age he was showing marked signs of significant developmental delay. He underwent an MRI brain scan in November 2016.
Matters deteriorated and Alfie started to experience episodes of seizures, periods of apnoea (pauses in breathing) and cardiac arrests. Alfie contracted pneumonia, but survived the infection in January 2017. Since then, Alfie had been (according to his treating Consultant Paediatric Neurologist, Dr R) in a coma and unaware of his surroundings, showing no response to tactile, visual, auditory or sensory stimulation.
Numerous experts were consulted from both sides with a general consensus being that “Due to his underlying neurological process it is highly unlikely that Alfie has any awareness of pain or discomfort and does not show any neurological signs that would suggest that he is in pain or discomfort such as increase of heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate to uncomfortable/painful stimuli.”
The father’s position was not to give up hope and sought a transfer to Rome and/or Munich for treatment.
The judge accepted that, even though he accepted entirely the conclusion of the medical evidence that treatment for Alfie was futile, it did not follow axiomatically that such futility led to the immediate withdrawal of ventilation. As the parents were Roman Catholics, the judge set out in the judgment extracts from an open letter by His Holiness Pope Francis to the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, dated November 2017, which called for “greater wisdom” in striking a balance between medical efforts to prolong life and the responsible decision to withhold treatment when death became inevitable.
After summarising the key points in the evidence the judge reluctantly reached the clear conclusion that Alfie’s best interests required the withdrawal of ventilation and the provision of good quality palliative care to keep him as comfortable as possible at the last stage of his life. The father’s proposals to transport Alfie to Italy / Germany were irreconcilable with his best interests in the face of a total absence of treatment for Alfie’s condition.
The family are now appealing the ruling to the Court of Appeal.
The emotional turmoil that these parents are combatting is terrible and our sympathies go out to the family; indeed every parent suffers with fears over their own children’s well-being.
If you need any advice on the law concerning anything to do with your children then we are here to help.
For more information on Alfie’s story see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-43152332
The full legal position is cited from http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed188285