Alfie Evans: Toddler's parents launch new legal challenge

Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
Alfie Evans has been treated at Alder Hey Children's Hospital since December 2016

The parents of a terminally ill toddler who has been at the centre of a life-support treatment battle are mounting another legal challenge.

Tom Evans and Kate James will ask the Court of Appeal on Monday to allow Alfie Evans to continue treatment.

A date to withdraw life support had been set but his parents hope to transfer him to a hospital in Italy.

Mr Evans said he had tried to discharge Alfie from Alder Hey Children's Hospital but was stopped by police.

Mr Evans, 21, and Ms James, 20, from Liverpool, want to take Alfie to a hospital in Rome and say they have a private ambulance and jet on stand-by.

Speaking outside Alder Hey on Friday, Mr Evans said he had been told he could face prison if he removes Alfie. He said there are police officers on the ward to stop him taking his son.

Media caption,
Protesters have gathered at Alder Hey Children's Hospital

He said they had "attempted to discharge" Alfie from Alder Hey "by formally withdrawing their duty of care" on Thursday.

But he said the "alarm was pulled and police were alerted" and within 15 or 20 minutes there were three police officers at Alfie's bedside.

"If he stays here and dies, he dies, if he goes and he dies at least he has died a hero, trying," he said.

A spokesman for the hospital said: "Alfie's clinical condition is truly heart rending but at each stage of the legal process which has to be followed in such cases, the courts have agreed with the treating team and the independent expert advisers instructed by the trust and the family that Alfie's condition is irreversible and untreatable.

"All treatable conditions have been diagnosed.

"All the experts agree that it will not assist Alfie to subject him to further tests in order to identify a diagnosis."

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On Thursday, hundreds of people protested outside Alder Hey Children's Hospital, where Alfie has been treated since December 2016.

Some protesters returned to the hospital on Friday afternoon.

In February, Mr Justice Hayden ruled doctors could stop treating Alfie against the wishes of his parents following hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London and Liverpool.

On Wednesday, the judge said Alfie's undiagnosed degenerative brain disease was "profoundly unfair", as the court endorsed an end-of-life care plan drawn up by specialists.

The judge said details of that plan could not be revealed because the toddler was entitled to privacy.

The Christian Legal Centre, which is representing Mr Evans and Ms James, said its counsel argued "the ancient right of habeas corpus" at the hearing on Wednesday, which "requires a court to show a valid reason for a person's detention".

The centre said Mr Justice Hayden was unable to rule on the issue of parental rights and so Alfie's parents asked for an urgent appeal, which will be heard on Monday.

'Deep suffering'

Appeal court officials said an appeal court judge had decided that Alfie should continue to receive treatment pending Monday's hearing.

His parents want to move him to Rome's Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital, which has links to the Vatican, where his palliative care would continue.

The Pope previously tweeted his support for Alfie, saying he hoped the "deep suffering" of the toddler's parents would be heard.

In December, the family said Bambino Gesu would give Alfie a tracheotomy and a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) to allow him to be fed through his stomach.

But Alder Hey's hospital trust argues that Bambino Gesu has a similar belief that care for Alfie should be palliative.

The couple have lost cases in the High Court, Court of Appeal, and had their case rejected by the Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights.

In a post on Alfie's Army Official Facebook page, the family thanked supporters but also referred to some negativity and "trolls".

Image source, Family handout

9 May 2016: Alfie is born

December 2016: Alfie is first taken to Alder Hey Children's Hospital after suffering seizures

11 December 2017: Hospital bosses say they are "liaising directly" with the youngster's family following disagreements over his treatment

19 December: A High Court judge, Mr Justice Hayden, begins overseeing the case. The hospital says continuing life-support treatment would not be in Alfie's best interests, but his parents disagree and say they want permission to fly him to Italy for treatment

1 February 2018: A hearing begins at the High Court in Liverpool, in which lawyers acting for the hospital claim further treatment for Alfie is unkind and inhumane

2 February: One of Alfie's doctors tells the judge there is "no hope" for the youngster, who is in a "semi-vegetative state" from a degenerative neurological condition doctors have not been able to definitively identify

20 February: Mr Justice Hayden rules in favour of hospital bosses

6 March: The Court of Appeal judges uphold the decision of Mr Justice Hayden

20 March: Supreme Court justices refuse to give the couple permission to mount another appeal

28 March: Judges at the European Court of Human Rights reject a bid from Mr Evans and Ms James for them to examine issues relating to Alfie's future, saying they found no appearance of any human rights violation

11 April: Mr Justice Hayden endorses an end-of-life care plan for Alfie

13 April: Legal advisers representing Alfie's parents say they will ask appeal court judges to overturn at least one decision made by Mr Justice Hayden at a hearing on April 16

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