The UK’s Supreme Court has today rejected the latest appeal from the parents of Alfie Evans, who continues to be held at Alder Hey Children’s hospital, and has ruled that the facility be given the right to turn off Alfie’s life support. “Having considered submissions from the parties ‘on paper’, in the usual way, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has refused permission for the parents to appeal,” the court announced April 20.
Alfie’s parents want to release him from Alder Hey Children’s hospital and have him transferred to Rome for further treatment. Alfie suffers from a degenerative neurological condition that has caused his brain to waste away. After several previous appeals to have their son released, they made one final bid to the Supreme Court, which has now been rejected.
Lady Hale, Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson ruled that it was “not in Alfie’s best interest” for him to carry on being treated at Alder Hey, adding that it would also be against his best interests if he was to be transferred abroad, as is the parents wish. What the court is saying, then, is that his life support should be switched off.
“It is not lawful to continue to detain him, whether in Alder Hey or elsewhere,” the court continued, clearly offering one solution – to endow the medical professionals with the power to end Alfie’s life and to deny the youngster’s parents their wish to have him transferred.
“The release to which (Alfie) is entitled, therefore, is release from the imposition of treatment which is not in his best interests,” the court noted.
“There is also no reason for further delay,” the court added. “The hospital must be free to do what has been determined to be in Alfie’s best interests. That is the law in this country.” The court also shut down any notion of an additional legal challenge following its ruling, adding: “No application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg can or should change that.”
But the Evans’ legal representatives, the Christian Legal Centre, have vowed to fight on.
“We are going to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights hoping we can stay the end-of-life order our courts have made,” said Christian Legal Centre chief executive Andrea Williams in a statement to the BBC.
“We are appealing today because we have got to act quickly. The parents are devoted parents.”
Williams added: “It is one thing to argue any medical treatment is futile, it is quite another thing to say someone should die because their quality of life is futile.”
In a statement through the Christian Legal Centre, Alfie’s parents said: “Our son’s life is not futile.”
“We love him. We value him,” they added. “There are people willing to treat him and we have the state saying ‘It’s not worth giving him the chance’.”
“It has been conclusively determined that it is not in Alfie’s best interests to continue to receive treatment or to travel abroad for treatment,” the court clearly stated in its ruling. The highest legal authority in the United Kingdom admitted that this was a “desperately sad case…principally of course for Alfie’s parents for they love their little boy dearly and want to do all in their power to keep him alive,” adding that “it is sad also for the people who have been keeping Alfie alive for so long, the doctors and nurses at Alder Hey hospital.”
The Supreme Court has today refused permission to appeal in the application from the parents of Alfie Evans who wished to challenge the decision that Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust can withdraw artificial ventilation from their child. https://t.co/J5uxqjDlM1
— UK Supreme Court (@UKSupremeCourt) April 20, 2018
Despite displaying compassion in its ruling, the court remained staunch in its refusal, rejecting the argument that Alfie is being held against his will.
As for the argument of Habeas Corpus, the court ruled that this is not applicable to modern times, in which child welfare remains paramount. The Habeas Corpus Act 1679 was an Act of the UK Parliament that requires the courts to examine the “lawfulness of a prisoner’s detention and thus prevent unlawful or arbitrary imprisonment.”
“In the olden days, the way in which a father could enforce his right to the custody of his child was by was of a writ of habeas corpus,” the Supreme Court wrote in its decision. “That was because a married father had, at common law, the right to the custody of his child. But that right has been circumscribed in modern times in the interests of the welfare of the child.”
This is something that the Evans’ lawyers at the Christian Legal Center fundamentally disagree with.
“Habeas corpus liberty cannot be set aside by a judge’s view that it is in Alfie’s interest to die now,” Roger Kiska of the Christian Legal Centre told Faithwire Tuesday.
“Kate and Tom, Alfie’s parents, do not accept that it is in his best interests to have his life ended by a judge’s ruling; they should be free to take him to a hospital that is ready and willing to treat him,” Kiska added. “Alfie should also be able to access the treatment being offered abroad.”
The father of Alfie Evans, Thomas, met with Pope Francis earlier this week after flying out to Rome in an effort to save his son from being taken off life support. Speaking outside Manchester airport upon his return Thursday, Tom said: “The Pope stated that he wants Alfie in his country and that’s what the president of Bambino Gesu has said today. She is willing to come over and testify in court, her and the team,” as reported by the Daily Mirror.
He continued, “I’ve met the team twice. I’ve got a letter handed to me on behalf of the Pope and the hospital president showing how much they want to take Alfie on.” Tom said he intended to go back to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and clarify the treatment that the Vatican-linked hospital is able to provide for his son if a transfer is approved by the courts. “I’m going to go to the hospital [Alder Hey] to show them what the hospital [in Italy] can provide for him,” he said.
After appealing to the most powerful man in the Catholic Church and receiving his fervent support, Tom said that it would be a “diplomatic problem” should the hospital disagree with the Pope.
“If they’ve seen how the Pope reacted I’m just hopeful now that they’ll shake their heads and realise that there’s a lot of limelight on him [Alfie] now,” he added.
Tom added that the Pope believed it was the right thing for him to do as a father – to fight on for Alfie’s life and to leave the final result in the hands of God.
“I will do whatever it takes to get Alfie out,” he declared. “The Pope actually stated that I was right and to let God decide. Not Alder Hey, not the doctors here not any parents either.”
He added, “I feel like I’m being listened to and the Pope praised how much courage [Alfie] has got. He’s got the strength of God and I’m only doing it for Alfie, to protect Alfie’s safety and to protect his life.”
“The fact of the matter is no-one decides life unless God does or the child does.”
Tom recalled how Pope Francis stopped him mid-sentence and reassured the heartbroken father that he was doing the right thing. “I told him everything I could tell him and he was mortified,” Tom explained. “He paused me half-way though and told me that I was right and that God should choose his fate.”
“It’s far from over,” Tom concluded. “Alfie will tell us when it’s over.”
According to the BBC, the Supreme Court has approved a plan for withdrawing treatment and bringing the 23-month-old’s life to an end.