Evil in England: 5 Things to Ponder After the Needless Death of Alfie Evans
Alfie Evans died early this morning. He’s the 23 month old toddler in England who suffered brain seizures when he was seven months old and was recently determined by British doctors to be unable to sustain his own life. Doctors removed Alfie from ventilators on Monday, saying he would die immediately. But Alfie, receiving much love and skin-to-skin contact with his parents, lived for five more days.
The five days that span the removal of Alfie’s life support and his death are marked with brutality and nonsense:
- Alfie was only evaluated by one medical team—an acute care team that lacks experience with long-term care of disabled patients.
- The team never actually provided a clear diagnosis for Alfie—only that he would be disabled and unable to live without “burdensome” intervention.
- When Alfie’s parents sought to intervene and get additional medical help for their son, they were blocked by English courts. Not only were oxygen, water, and food removed from Alfie, but courts and doctors barred his parents from providing oxygen to their son from an outside source. Alfie was eventually given limited amounts of oxygen but ultimately starved to death.
- Following the posture of Pope Francis who pled for Alfie’s life, the Italian government granted Alfie immediate citizenship, prepared a military medical evacuation helicopter to rescue him, and offered to pay for all of his medical needs in Italy. Rather than giving in to the pleas of Alfie’s parents to let their child go, England posted 30 police officers outside the hospital to ensure that no escape plan could be carried out.
In sum, Alfie received limited medical care; he was not given a diagnosis; oxygen, water, and food were withheld from him; his parents weren’t allowed to intervene; and free medical care from an outside source was not permitted.
Alfie’s death was senseless, brutal, inhumane, and unnecessary. Here are several things for us, watching from across the Atlantic, to consider.
1. Parental Rights
In England—as seen in both the case of Charlie Gard and now Alfie Evans—parental rights are no longer considered natural. In others words, they are not seen as naturally bestowed upon the parents of a child based on the nature of their relationship. Rather, the judgment of the state has usurped the judgement of the parents. As a result, when parents believe that their child’s life is worth saving, but the state does not, the parents’ right to intercede will be severed and the child will be left to die.
2. Progressive Medical Ethics
In Alfie’s case we see doctors and judges employing a number of euphemisms as they justify sentencing Alfie to death. Over and over it was said that “in the best interest of the child” he should “be allowed to die” with “dignity.” They claimed their actions were “merciful” and would be the “least burdensome.” They didn’t want to take “extraordinary” measures to prolong a terminal life.
Anyone can tell that five days without (enough) oxygen and water was not in Aflie’s best interest, nor was it dignified or without burden. Since when is providing oxygen and water extraordinary?
And burdensome to whom? Alfie’s parents desperately wanted him to live. His life was not a burden to them. Alfie fought for his life and he clearly wanted to live. Italy offered free medical care, removing any burden from England in caring for Alfie.
In the end, though, a judge decided that the burden of Alfie’s future disabilities would be too great for him to go on living. This is Nazi style euthanasia. The state should be protecting its weakest members, not snuffing them out.
3. Sanctity of Every Human Life
It is striking that on Monday, when Alfie was removed from life support, His Royal Highness Prince Louis of Cambridge was also born. As England ushered in the life of their newest prince with great fanfare and jubilation, the life of another little boy was declared unworthy of support. What if it was Prince Louis who needed the life support? Would the state deem his life also too burdensome to carry on?
Alfie’s life is just one in the long and troubling wake of systemic ableism throughout Europe. Which is to say, European nations are eradicating the lives of those with disabilities. Between 70% and 90% of babies in utero with down syndrome are killed before they are born. Belgium and the Netherlands have provisions for not only assisted suicide, but euthanasia at the request of doctors and family members “in the best interest” of the sick.
4. Life-Sustaining Treatment vs. Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
It is not always morally wrong to remove life-sustaining treatment from a sick patient. Life support is a blessing, but not always the right choice to make. Such decisions must be weighed carefully by parents and loved ones, as they consider diagnoses and prognoses, as well as the wishes of their loved one. But such decisions must be reserved for parents and spouses and the closest loved ones and must never be conferred upon the state. The motives, energy, and perseverance of both doctors and judges are clouded by the distance in the relationship between them and the patient. Clearly, in Alfie’s case, by any ethical measure, life support should not have been removed.
5. Don’t Think This Won’t Happen in the US
Already parental rights in the US are beginning to take a backseat to what is deemed best by the government. In Ohio a minor teenager was recently removed from her parents’ home because they would not allow the teen to seek medical gender reassignment. A California school district says parents cannot opt their children out of controversial sex ed. The security of parental rights is slipping and fast.
Assisted suicide is legal in eight states (including my own Colorado). This will pave the way for legalized euthanasia—it’s only a matter of time. Abortion is allowed throughout the country and late term abortion is legal in at least eight states. Assisted suicide and abortion are administered, of course, in the “best interest” of the patient, so that they might pursue what is “least burdensome,” with the greatest “dignity.” These “right to die” measures will progress quickly into a “duty to die” and really, no one is safe.
As we in the US increasingly devalue human life, demote the priority of parental rights, and proceed with progressive medical ethics, we will have our own Alfie soon. May his death not be in vain. His short life brought people around the globe together in prayer to God and petition to the government. His and his parents’ bravery left us all breathless and begging for mercy. In his death may we not stop. May we press on, shocked and horrified into action. May we not stand idle as another Alfie slips away.