Beliefnet News

26867573207_4189f5a5e9_zThe situation sounds like something out of a dystopian novel. A toddler suffers from a mysterious disease. Doctors have no cure and want to let him die. The parents decide to take their child to another country that is willing to provide treatment. The doctors refuse to let the child leave, claiming it is kinder for him to die. This nightmare was no fictional story. It was the hell the parents of Alfie Evans lived through.

Alfie Evans suffered from an undiagnosed neurogenerative disorder that left him on a ventilator. When British doctors wanted to pull the plug, the Evans wanted to take Alfie elsewhere in hopes of finding a cure. To the parents horror, they were not allowed to take their son elsewhere for treatment, even though they were willing to pay for the treatment. Instead, the Evans were told it would be kinder for Alfie to die.

The uproar crossed the world. Thousands of people across national and racial lines were horrified at the idea of doctors essentially holding a child hostage from his parents. The Polish government demanded that Alfie be released from the hospital, and the Vatican offered to put Alfie in Rome’s Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital. The Italian government even granted Alfie citizenship on April 23rd and threatened to hold British authorities responsible for the homicide of an Italian citizen if he was taken off the ventilator. The doctors of Britain, however, ignored the threats and disconnected the ventilator. The doctors were “gobsmacked”, however, when Alfie continued to breath.

Alfie breathed and coughed of his own accord for more than four days even though the hospital staff refused to give him oxygen or water for more than five hours. This minor miracle bolstered both Alfie’s exhausted parents and those who were determined to help the toddler live. Unfortunately, British authorities refused to allow the Evans to give their child another chance at life. Hospital staff eventually gave Alfie water and oxygen, but Professor Dominic Wilkinson, director of Medical Ethics at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, continued to maintain that “sometimes, the sad fact is that parents do not know what is best for their child.” Apparently, the best thing for the son of two dedicated, determined parents with a world rallied behind them is to die. At 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 28, 2018, the British doctors and courts got their way. Alfie Evans passed away at 23 months old. His father stated that “[his] gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30.”

The fight for Alfie’s life ended in tragedy after a temporary stay of execution born of a miracle. The firestorm surrounding his life and death, however, have reignited debates over how much control the state should have when deciding who lives and who dies. The implications of Alfie’s death terrify many parents, and rightly so. After all, in this case, the government refused to allow a parent to save their child and insisted on killing them instead. More than one person has shivered and wondered, what comes next when parents are no longer allowed to protect their children?