UK toddler Alfie Evans is removed from life support, after courts reject parents’ bid for more treatment
Doctors at a Liverpool hospital say Alfie’s brain has almost been destroyed and it would be pointless to allow him to be flown to Italy for further treatment
Life support has reportedly been withdrawn from a 23-month-old British boy who has been at the centre of a protracted legal battle, his parents said on Monday evening, shortly after their last-ditch appeal to the high court that he receive more treatment was turned down.
Alfie Evans’ father said his son was still supporting his own life more than an hour after treatment was stopped, but that he was in need of oxygen. Earlier in the evening, Mr Justice Hayden said doctors at Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool could stop providing life support.
The child’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, who are both in their early 20s and from Liverpool, had asked for a delay to give them time to mount a further challenge after the Italian government had agreed to grant their son citizenship. They wanted to take him to a hospital in Rome for further treatment.
In a video posted on Facebook shortly after 10.30pm, Tom Evans said his son had been breathing for himself since 9.17pm. He said doctors were refusing to give him oxygen. Alder Hey did not respond to a request for comment.
Doctors in the UK have argued that life support should be withdrawn for the boy, who has a rare degenerative brain disease.
In a session of the family division of the high court on Monday evening, the judge heard submissions from lawyers representing hospital management, Alfie’s parents and Alfie himself via a telephone link.
The parents’ barrister, Paul Diamond, said the Italian government wanted to intervene in the case and claimed that gave it an “international relations element”.
But the hospital’s lawyer, Michael Mylonas QC, said the fact was irrelevant and there could be “no possible suggestion” that English courts did not have jurisdiction.
Sophia Roper, who represents Alfie and takes instructions from a court-appointed guardian, agreed, saying any granting of Italian citizenship seemed designed to “frustrate” orders made in domestic courts.
The judge dismissed Diamond’s application, saying it amounted to a “last-ditch appeal”. He said: “Alfie is a British citizen, he is undoubtedly habitually resident in the UK. He falls, therefore, under the jurisdiction of the high court.” He gave lawyers permission to release a recording of the hearing to journalists. All previous hearings in the case have been staged in public.
The dramatic developments followed an attempt on Monday afternoon by protesters supporting Alfie’s parents to storm the hospital , after the European court of human rights refused to intervene in the case.
Alfie’s parents had appealed to the ECHR after failing to persuade UK supreme court justices to consider their case.
About 200 supporters gathered outside Alder Hey following the ECHR announcement and police scrambled to block the doors as around a dozen attempted to enter the building. The demonstrators temporarily blocked the road and chanted: “Save Alfie Evans.”
Speaking in a video on Facebook on Monday afternoon, Evans said his son’s life “hangs in the balance over the next couple of hours”, adding: “Please come to Alder Hey and pray. Make sure it’s peaceful.” Evans said he would pursue a private prosecution against the hospital and the doctors involved in his son’s treatment.
A post on the Alfie’s Army Facebook page, which has 270,000 members, asked protesters not to go near the hospital building.
A ECHR spokesman said: “The European court of human rights has rejected the application submitted by the family of Alfie Evans as inadmissible.”
The couple have lost cases in the high court, court of appeal , supreme court and European court of human rights.
Judges have agreed with doctors’ conclusions that the child was in a semi-vegetative state and further treatment would be futile.
On Friday , three supreme court justices agreed with Alfie’s doctors, saying: “There is no hope of him getting better”. They said there was no reason for further delay to withdrawing life support, adding: “The hospital must be free to do what has been determined to be in Alfie’s best interests.
“Alfie looks like a normal baby, but the unanimous opinion of the doctors who have examined him and the scans of his brain is that almost all of his brain has been destroyed.
“No one knows why. But that it has happened and is continuing to happen cannot be denied. It means that Alfie cannot breathe, or eat, or drink without sophisticated medical treatment. It also means that there is no hope of his ever getting better.”
The toddler has been seriously ill since having a seizure in December 2016.
Alfie’s father responded to Friday’s ruling on Facebook, saying his son was not in pain and was not suffering. After the ECHR ruling on Monday, he posted intermittent live video on Facebook, and the sound of people shouting support for the couple could be heard in the background.