His parents thought his life could be saved and extended without suffering. So did doctors in Italy, and the Italian government. So did, among millions of others, the Pope. Diagnoses have been wrong before; in this case, experts weren’t even sure what illness he had. Weighing all of that, and thrown a potential lifeline for Alfie by another country, British doctors concluded that the humane thing to do was … nothing.
He died 11 days short of his second birthday.
I can’t find confirmation in today’s news reports but I assume the official cause of death is the degenerative neurological condition he suffered from. It should be suffocation. If British courts wouldn’t grant him a last chance at being helped, they should at least give him honesty.
In the end, he passed in a hospital room instead of at home because the doctors, it seems, feared that his mom and dad might try to save his life.
Mr Evans’ legal team said the wishes of Alfie’s parents had been ignored right up until the last.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Alfie’s parents wanted him to go home to die in the end, but the hospital appeared to think they would have absconded with him. It was ludicrous and heartbreaking. Alfie died in hospital with police standing guard outside his door. That’s completely unsatisfactory.”
She added: “This is why we need an Alfie’s Law that gives much more weight to what parents want in these cases. Should responsible parents really be prevented from seeking the best medical care available for their children? The answer has to be no.
It has to be, and yet.
Pope Francis is one of many mourners today:
I am 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.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 28, 2018
Something his father said the other day about the doctors stuck with me: “They don’t want to see him come out of it, they want him to die, they want him to deteriorate in the next couple of hours so then they can say ‘oh look we told you’.” That’s the most haunting element here, the suspicion that they wouldn’t let him go to Rome not because they feared for his quality of life but because they feared for their own institutional reputations. Whether he was suffering wasn’t just debatable, it was debated: The president of the hospital in Rome that was willing to accept him stated that “a positive outcome would be difficult, but the baby’s suffering can be alleviated.” If that were true, though — in particular, if the Italian doctors had improved his quality of life — his doctors in Britain would have been lambasted for having tried to condemn him unnecessarily. The question would inevitably be asked whether British medicine in its entirety has been too quick to give up in other debatable end-of-life cases. Faith in its judgment would be badly shaken.
And so instead today they get to say, “Oh look, we told you.”
There are few comforts here. The little boy is dead, and if each of us had to wager which way western medical care would trend in the future, towards the British “humane euthanasia” model or the Italian “every last chance” one, we’d all wager the same way. But if you’re pro-life, take comfort in the fact that you were in the right. You fought the good fight. It’s all you can do.