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Thursday, 26 April 2018

JANET STREET-PORTER: What poor Alfie Evans needs now is peace and love, instead he has become a tragic pawn in a religious war

The short life of one small boy fighting to breathe draws to an inevitable conclusion in the unrelenting glare of social media.
Alfie Evans - against his parents’ wishes - lies in a hospital surrounded by the world’s press. In the latest round of a prolonged court battle, a judge has ruled today that Alfie cannot be moved. 
Meanwhile, his mother admits that the boy is struggling. Doctors in Germany and Italy have said there is a small glimmer of hope that Alfie can be treated and he might improve.
I find this unspeakably cruel - doctors and independent experts have told a series of judges in the UK that is simply not true, the little boy’s condition is terminal, and moving him to another country would cause suffering and even hasten his final hours.

Tom said his child will need further medical assistance within the hour if he is to survive the dayDoctors ended up giving Alfie oxygen and water
Medics have given the boy some oxygen and water but Mr Evans said his son (pictured) will need further urgent medical assistance if he is to survive the day
In spite of the court’s wishes that Alfie should be allowed privacy to die with dignity surrounded by his family, sadly, that’s unlikely to happen.
This small boy’s struggle to survive has become headline news, a cause everyone has an opinion about.
1000,000 people have signed a petition asking the Queen to intervene.
Born with a rare incurable degenerative brain disease, 23 month-old Alfie’s quality of life has always been severly limited and he’s been continuously nursed by highly trained NHS staff. 
There’s no doubt this is a much-loved child- his parents have taken their fight against the doctors treating him at Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool all the way from the High Court in London to the Court of Appeal, to the Supreme Court to the European Court of Human Rights, funded by pro-life groups.
Tom Evans, Alfie's father, pictured speaking to supporters outside the Liverpool hospital
Tom Evans, Alfie's father, pictured speaking to supporters outside the Liverpool hospital
Alfie has become a pawn in a religious propaganda war, as his parents fight has been hijacked by the Catholic Church.
Tom and Kate have campaigned tirelessly for their child, using Facebook to build up a vociferous ‘army’ of 270,000 supporters, hundeds of whom stand outside the hospital and protest loudly. What about other terminally ill children, the greiving families we know nothing about? What about the seriously ill teenagers and young people at Alder Hey?
This case is consuming huge medical and legal resources as (increasingly) parents with terminally ill children (like the tragic case of Charlie Gard at Great Ormand Street) challenge experts and demand the right to intervene.
I do not have children, so you might think I can’t speak from experience - but that’s not the case.
The family of terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans have released pictures of the little boy clinging to life in his mother's arms 10 hours after his life support was removed
The family of terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans have released pictures of the little boy clinging to life in his mother's arms 10 hours after his life support was removed
I married a wonderful man whose 7 year old son had suffered brain damage shortly after birth, a condition that was not immediately spotted by the hospital. My step-son had an operation to reverse the fluid on his brain, but was left with disabilities and learning difficulties.
Bunny was a wonderful child, and his condition wasn’t life-threatening - he went to a special school and loved music.
Aged 11, he was rushed to hospital with suspected appendicitis - following an exploratory operation the doctors told us he had terminal stomach cancer.
He died two weeks later, after the longest fortnight of my life.
Unlike Alfie’s mum and dad, my husband and his former partner did not attack the doctors and question their diagnosis, they did not demand surgery (having been told the cancer was too advanced).
My job was to comfort and support my husband through this nightmare - with its inevitable painful conclusion.
Piers Morgan says that in Alfie’s case ‘love must prevail’ and that the doctors should let the parents do whatever they want.
That is nonsensical - this is not a war between right and wrong, and that position implies that doctors will never love a child as much as parents.
Doctors take an oath to always act in the best interests of a patient - and Alfie’s interests have been represented separately in court.
Alfie’s quality of life is paramount - and for his father to say ‘he’s breathing, he’s not suffering’ yesterday after he was taken off a ventilator is plainly wishful thinking.
It denies the hard reality that sometimes a doctor will know your child better than you, and understand medical suffering better than you.
If you are truly religious and believe in an afterlife, then you will not fear death and nor should you project fear onto a child.
Death is inevitable, and the limited time remaining before Alfie’s death should be a quiet time to celebrate his life and treasure these moments forever, not make plans to whisk him away to another country on a wild goose chase.
The hardest thing in the world is to let go, to accept that there’s nothing more you can do except give love.
My husband managed to do that - at tremendous cost - and I wish that Tom and Kate could put their child first and do the same.

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