Alfie Evans: Parents of terminally ill boy to appeal against ban on taking him to Italy for treatment

High Court judge describes 23-month-old as 'courageous' and a 'warrior', but says case is in 'final chapter'

Wednesday 25 April 2018 12:31
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Alfie Evans' father: 'He's been breathing on his own for nine hours'

Alfie Evans’ parents are to appeal a High Court ruling that has prevented them taking the terminally ill boy to Italy for treatment, their lawyers have said.

The Christian Legal Centre, which represents Alfie’s parents, said the Court of Appeal would hear the case on Wednesday afternoon.

“The Court of Appeal have reached out to us and said they are going to set back three judges to hear the case,” Mr Evans told reporters outside Alder Hey Children’s Hospital on Tuesday night.

On Tuesday a judge ruled Alfie can be taken home from the hospital, but will not be allowed to go to Rome for further treatment. Doctors and outside experts believe there is no cure for the boy’s degenerative neurological condition.

The 23-month-old continued to live, sometimes breathing unaided, after life-support was withdrawn on Monday night, according to his father, Tom Evans.

“In reality, he could be in Italy right now. We all know the military air force are ready to take him and a team of doctors are there,” Mr Evans said.

“We’ve also got a German air ambulance team, who attempted to take him in the first place, ready. The reality is these people are eager to get him out of the country and I’m not giving up because Alfie’s breathing away, he’s not suffering.”

Mr Evans said Alfie had needed help to breathe at times, adding: “At some point I had to give him mouth-to-mouth because his lips went blue and he was really fighting with his breathing so me and his mum were giving him mouth-to-mouth.”

The highly emotive case has seen Pope Francis weigh in, with his comments at odds with doctors’ findings about Alfie’s prospects. The pontiff tweeted on Monday: “Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”

In the High Court in Manchester, Mr Justice Hayden described Alfie as “courageous” and a “warrior”, but said the case had now reached its “final chapter”.

He rejected claims by Mr Evans that his son was “significantly better” than first thought because he had been breathing unaided for 20 hours after doctors first withdrew life support.

Instead, the judge said the best Alfie’s parents could hope for was to “explore” the options of removing him from intensive care either to a ward, a hospice or his home.

But a doctor treating Alfie, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said that for Alfie to be allowed home would require a “sea change” in attitude from the child’s family, and they feared that in the “worst case” they would try to take the boy abroad.

Mr Justice Hayden ruled out the family’s wishes to take the child to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, following interventions from the Pope and the Italian authorities.

Alfie has been at the centre of a life-or-death treatment battle, with his parents, Mr Evans and Kate James, trying to block doctors from withdrawing life support in a sometimes acrimonious six-month dispute which has seen a series of court battles.

A “last-ditch appeal” in which the Italian ambassador granted Alfie citizenship of Italy in order to take him to Rome for treatment failed on Monday.

And a late-night court hearing heard by telephone by Mr Justice Hayden and lawyers for both sides confirmed his earlier decision permitting life support, helping Alfie to breathe, to be withdrawn.

During another three-hour hearing on Tuesday at the Family Division of the High Court sitting in Manchester, Paul Diamond, from the Christian Legal Centre, suggested the alleged change in the position meant the court should reconsider its decision on allowing Alfie to travel abroad.

He handed the court a witness statement from Mr Evans in which he suggested his son’s health was “significantly better” than first thought since life support was withdrawn at 9.17pm on Monday, as he was continuing to live and breathe.

But Mr Justice Hayden said in his ruling: “The sad truth is that it is not. With little, indeed no hesitation, I reject that.”

Instead the judge said Alfie’s continued life was a “shaft of light” and a “special opportunity” for his parents to spend time with him – not the time for more legal manoeuvres.

And he criticised the “malign hand” of one of the family’s advisers, law student Pavel Stroilov, who had, the court heard, been party to Mr Evans lodging a private prosecution of Alder Hey Hospital doctors, allegedly for murder.

The judge said, in fact, the hospital had provided “world class” care for the child.

The hospital’s doctors and independent medical experts say there is no cure and no hope for Alfie.

Following the court hearing, an Alder Hey spokesman said it was working closely with his parents, but the hospital’s “top priority therefore remains in ensuring Alfie receives the care he deserves to ensure his comfort, dignity and privacy are maintained throughout”.

Medics say Alfie has a degenerative neurological condition destroying his brain, and it is in his best interests to withdraw life support.

But his parents have fought a long battle to ask the courts to allow them to take him abroad.

The dispute ended up in the courts, but the family have already lost a series of appeals in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights.

Alfie was born on 9 May 2016, but suffered seizures and was taken to hospital in December that year.

He is currently being hydrated and given oxygen to stop him becoming distressed, Mr Justice Hayden was told.

Additional reporting by PA

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