Saturday, 28 April 2018

Alfie Evans: Who Decides?

The Alfie Evans story is desperately sad but once again we find ourselves asking the question who decides how and where a child dies?
Suffering from a terminal degenerative brain disease, after 17 months of keeping Alfie alive, it was all about managing the poor child's death once doctors said that medicine could do no more for him. 
As any parent would, Alfie's fought in court to keep their child alive but British law is quite clear with the legal precedent being that: 'the child's welfare shall be the court's paramount consideration' and the judge decided that as he had no discernible brain function and was reliant on life support in a semi-vegetative state and with no chance of recovery, the child's best interests was to follow the medical opinion and to withdraw treatment and allow him to die in hospital.
In Alfie's case, it  became a decision about how and where he died with the choice between Alder Hey Hospital or the Bambino Gesu hospital in Vatican City and that's where things became tricky because the religious campaign groups became involved and began exploiting the situation and stirring the pot.
The Christian Legal Centre provided legal support to the Evans family, advising the family to seek a private prosecution against doctors at Alder Hey for conspiracy to murder if they turned off the life support machines.
They argued in court that the palliative regime in Italy would be in line with Catholic teaching, provided with a view to continuing life rather than managing Alfie's death as in England.
There was a ridiculous American evangelist on TV warning that the case exemplifies the dangers of 'socialised medicine', ignoring the fact that NHS kept Alfie alive for 17 months for free, imagine the bill if this was happening the US.
The even more ridiculous Nigel Farage told Fox News Alfie's fate had effectively been decided by a 'death panel' showing a complete lack of understanding of what the court case was about as did those who protested and abused staff at Alder Hey Hospital.
The decision was a choice between the will of the parents and the advice of doctors and the courts found with the latter which doesn't make it any easier but as medicine advances, more children will be kept alive but not cured and the dilemma will come again but an already tragic and heartbreaking situation is only made harder for the parents by people with their own agenda and no understanding
of the position trying to stir things up.

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