(CNSNews.com) – The severely-ill little English boy who touched millions of hearts around the world has died, after his parents lost a legal battle to take him to a hospital in Rome for further treatment.
Twenty three-month-old Alfie Evans survived for five days after being taken off life support last Monday night. Court rulings barring his parents from taking him abroad and allowing Liverpool’s Alder Hey hospital to withdraw his ventilation drew widespread concern and condemnation.
“My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings,” his father, Tom Evans, wrote in a Facebook post, adding that he was “absolutely heartbroken.”
“I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie,” tweeted Pope Francis, who earlier threw his support behind his parents’ campaign. “Today I pray especially for his parents, as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace.”
“The death of Alfie Evans is devastating news,” said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association. “While his life was short, Alfie brought millions of people together in support of his precious life and his parents’ brave struggle on his behalf.”
Alfie Evans was admitted to hospital in December 2016 with a severe, but undiagnosed brain condition.
The toddler’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, wanted to take him to Rome’s Bambino Gesù (Baby Jesus) Pediatric Hospital, and last Monday Italy’s foreign and interior ministers granted Alfie Italian citizenship in the hopes that would facilitate his “immediate transfer to Italy.”
But doctors have long argued that continuing treatment would be “futile” and allowing him to travel abroad would not be in his “best interests.”
The High Court backed their assessment, and the Appeal Court on Wednesday upheld that judgment.
The case saw Alfie’s parents clash with Alder Hey medical staff, although on Thursday Evans issued a statement indicating he and James wanted to begin “building a bridge” with the hospital, and “work with his treatment team on a plan that provides our boy with the dignity and comfort he needs.”
On Saturday, the hospital in a statement said it expressed its “heartfelt sympathy and condolences to Alfie’s family at this extremely distressing time. All of us feel deeply for Alfie, Kate, Tom and his whole family and our thoughts are with them.”
“This has been a devastating journey for them and we would ask that their privacy and the privacy of staff at Alder Hey is respected.”
The hospital earlier reported that is staff had faced a “barrage” of abuse relating to the case, both in person and via phone calls, emails and on social media platforms.
British law allows for courts to overrule parents if their decisions on treatment are determined by doctors not to be in the child’s “best interest.”
Steven Woolfe, an independent member of the European Parliament for North-West England, last week launched a campaign for legislation – “Alfie’s Law” – which would support parents in such cases.
Among other things, Woolfe explained in an op-ed in The Independent, “Alfie’s Law would give the right for a second opinion from a parent-chosen healthcare professional who is independent of the [National Health Service], and would force the courts to give this medical opinion equal weight.”