Thursday, March 29, 2018

The European Court of Human Rights as an arbiter of human life

On Wednesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg denied a British couple’s application to review the decision that would bar them from prolonging their baby's life.

Tom Evans and Kate James’ son Alfie has a degenerative brain disorder, and has been a patient at Alder Hey Childrens’ Hospital since December 2016. The hospital wanted the courts to permit them to disconnect Alfie’s ventilator, but in the meantime, Tom and Kate had found a hospital in Rome to give their son proper care and treatment.

On February 20, a High Court judge had agreed with the hospital that Alfie should be disconnected from the ventilator. He stated, “Alfie's need now is for good quality palliative care. He requires peace, quiet and privacy in order that he may conclude his life as he has lived it, with dignity,” adding, “In the light of the parents’ entirely understandable concern, a professor was instructed to review the clinical history, the ECGs and the MRI scans. It is beyond doubt they confirm a rapidly destructive brain disease. The professor also reviewed the birth records and family history, and noted that the MRI scan raised the possibility of either underlying degenerative disorder or a metabolic disorder.”

After an appeal, on March 6, Lord Justices McFarlane and McCombe and Lady Justice King of the Great Britain’s second highest court concurred with the ruling of Judge Hayden. Last week Great Britain’s Supreme Court agreed.

A spokesman for the ECHR said judges found the couple’s application inadmissible, and even more astonishingly, found no appearance of any human rights violation.

Last week, Evans posted on the Facebook of “Alfie’s Army,” “Alfie isn’t dying or unstable he is growing, putting weight on, responding etc. He is not dying so Alder Hey do not have the right to remove his life from his parents or himself!!!” 

Evans continued that he asked the hospital if he could take Alfie home “to a suitable setting with the private facilities and team to let him die in his own time with no further escalation of treatment and we will never return to Alder Hey and we will buy the vent and pay for the team out of Alfie’s medical funds!!! We are being denied this!!!!! Alder Hey want Alfie dead and on their time scale with their plans!!! Whose son is he??? Does he belong to the government or me and Kate???!!!



  1. Isaiah Haastrup, the profoundly brain-damaged baby boy at the centre of a right-to-life legal battle, has died, his father has said.

    Doctors removed him from life-support on Wednesday after a last-resort appeal to the European court of human rights (ECHR) was refused on Tuesday. He received only palliative care after his extubation.

    His father, Lanre Haastrup, and mother, Takesha Thomas, both 36 and from south London, had from their son, aged one, who had been on life support since birth.

    A high court judge ruled on 29 January it was in Isaiah’s best interests for treatment to be withdrawn. Doctors said he could not move or breathe independently and had profoundly depressed consciousness after suffering catastrophic brain damage through being deprived of oxygen at birth,

    His parents were denied permission to appeal to the court of appeal, and an 11th hour appeal to the ECHR was ruled inadmissible on Tuesday.

    Treatment was withdrawn at 1pm on Wednesday, according to Isaiah’s father, and he died shortly before 8pm.

    Haastrup told the Guardian: “Isaiah was extubated at 1pm and breathed on his own till 7.50pm before he died. This was completely different from the three minutes the experts told the court he [would] breathe due to his injury.

    “He demonstrated that he wanted to live and can breathe on his own, and could have been weaned off the ventilator. I am so proud of him.”

    A spokesman for the King’s College hospital trust said the thoughts of staff were with Isaiah’s parents. “Isaiah Haastrup suffered an irreversible brain injury following a rare and life-threatening obstetric emergency during his mother’s labour,” said the spokesman.

    “Since birth he had been fully dependent on life support with no prospect of improvement, and throughout we actively sought to engage and involve Isaiah’s parents in his care.

    “The best interests of our patients must always come first. The trust always provided Isaiah with the very best care, and the decision to apply to the court to withdraw treatment was only made after careful consideration and after consultation with the family.

    “In Isaiah’s case, the high court ruled that overwhelming expert and independent medical opinion supported the declaration sought that withdrawing treatment was in his best interests.

    “Subsequently, neither the court of appeal or the European court of human rights reversed the original decision of the high court.”

    He added: “We recognise that this has been an extremely difficult time for Isaiah’s family as well as those involved in his care since birth. As Mr Justice MacDonald wrote in his judgment ‘no one can imagine the emotional pain of the parents’.

    “The thoughts of everyone at the trust are with them.”

  2. Re Isaiah Halstrup:

  3. Re Isaiah Haastrup:

  4. The parents of a Alfie Evans who has been at the centre of a life-support treatment battle have lost their latest legal fight.

    A lawyer representing Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, on Monday returned to the Court of Appeal to ask judges to rule that the 23-month-old should be allowed to travel to a foreign hospital.

    But Lord Justice Davis, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Moylan ruled against them after an appeal court hearing in London.

    The couple, who are from Liverpool, had already lost fights in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights.

    In February, Mr Justice Hayden ruled that doctors at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool could stop treating Alfie against the wishes of his parents following hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London and Liverpool.

    Specialists at Alder Hey said life-support treatment should stop and Mr Justice Hayden said he accepted medical evidence which showed that further treatment was futile.

    Alfie's parents say "the state" is wrongly interfering with their parental choice.

    They want to move Alfie to a hospital in Rome.

    Mr Justice Hayden said flying Alfie to a foreign hospital would be wrong and pointless. Court of Appeal judges upheld his decisions.

    Supreme Court justices and European Court of Human Rights judges refused to intervene.

    Last week, Mr Justice Hayden endorsed a detailed plan put forward by Alder Hey doctors for withdrawing life-support treatment, after considering a number of issues at a follow-up High Court hearing.

    Barrister Paul Diamond, who represented Alfie's parents, on Monday asked the three appeal judges to overturn decisions made by Mr Justice Hayden last week.

    Alfie's parents say their son has improved in recent weeks and had asked Mr Justice Hayden to allow a new assessment, but Mr Hayden refused that request.

    He said medical experts' unanimous view was that Alfie's brain had been eroded by disease and further assessment was pointless.

    They also suggested that Alfie was being unlawfully detained at Alder Hey.

    The judge also dismissed that suggestion.

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

  5. More than a year after being admitted to a British hospital and afflicted with a still-undiagnosed neurological ailment, Baby Alfie Evans is being killed by court order. His case defies all logic, and it brings me back to my experiences at the bedside of two other people who faced the same kind of injustice.

    Among the most profound moments of my life and ministry was being at the bedside of Terri Schindler Schiavo as she was dehydrated and starved to death by court order in Florida in 2005. Only a short list of people, approved by the family and the court, could even enter her room. I was among them.

    I have written before about the armed police officers who stood around Terri’s bed and at the door of her room to make sure no one slipped her a sip of water to ease her suffering as she lay dying of thirst. But right next to her head was a vase of flowers, lush and bursting with color as they soaked up the water in the vase. It was absurd.

    Terri’s death was neither quick nor painless. It took nearly two weeks, her family standing by, ensnared in a nightmare that not even the most sadistic mind could have contrived. We saw her face, locked in an expression of horrified sadness, as she dehydrated to death, and it’s an image that will live in my memory forever. So will the image of the flowers.

    While the hospital has once again begun feeding Baby Alfie, there is no guarantee it will to continue. To imagine what happened to Terri Schiavo being experienced by this precious 23-month-old child is more than many of us can bear. And as with Terri Schiavo, the overall disregard the hospital has shown him is outrageously unfair and completely unnecessary. (continued)

  6. (continued) Tom Evans and Kate James, Alfie’s parents, don’t want anything from England, or Alder Hey Hospital, other than to be allowed to wrap their arms around their precious child and carry him out of the hospital where he has been a patient since December 2016. An ambulance is waiting outside to take him to a medical jet, which will fly him to Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome, where life is sacred and bursting with possibility. Pope Francis supports this move. The Italian government has granted Baby Alfie citizenship.

    But doctors and judges won’t let Baby Alfie’s parents exercise the right that is already theirs. Terri Schiavo’s parents were deprived of that right as well, because her husband wanted her to die. But in Baby Alfie’s case, the family is united. His parents should be the final authority in deciding about his care, not the doctors who say his treatment is futile, nor the judges who can’t seem to see beyond their hallowed halls…

    This is not unlike the situation of another couple who also reached out to me about their baby boy back in 2011. Moe and Sana Maraachli’s child, who came to be known around the world as Baby Joseph, was in a hospital in London, Ontario, suffering from the same illness that claimed the life of their older child. They knew Baby Joseph would succumb as well, but they wanted him to have the basic care he needed – starting with a simple tracheotomy. But the hospital refused to provide it.

    With the help of Priests for Life and many others, the hospital finally agreed to let him go. An air ambulance was donated by Kalitta MedFlight, and I flew to Ontario to meet Baby Joseph and his dad. A midnight flight took the three of us to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Baby Joseph got the care he needed in St. Louis, and once he was able to breathe stably on his own, was allowed to go home where he lived for another six months with his loving parents and brother.

    If Alder Hey Hospital has its way, Baby Alfie will die in a hospital unwilling to treat him or to let others do so. No one, not even the medical staff or the judges who ruled against every appeal, can expect these parents will ever be the same after standing by helpless as their son was murdered by court order.

    None of us will ever be quite the same. Nor should we. Whether it approaches naturally or unnaturally, we can sometimes break the advance of death, and other times not. But we can always break the silence.

  7. (Originally entered April 24, 2018 at 10:34 pm) Alfie Evans' parents are tonight giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in a desperate bid to keep him alive after a court ruled he cannot be flown to Italy for treatment.

    Tom Evans said he and Alfie's mum Kate have been forced to help Alfie's breathing after "his lips turned blue".

    Speaking outside Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool, heartbroken Tom added: "We were doing what a nurse should have been doing to sustain his life.

    “Now they are saying that he looks really good but we all know he should be in Italy right now.”

    A High Court judge earlier made the devastating call to reject a last-ditch attempt to take Alfie abroad — but asked doctors if it is possible to consider letting the 23-month-old tot go home.

    Responding tonight, a weary Tom said: "I’ve got an uncle that could just do everything that the nurses do down to a tee and he’s medically trained to do this so I’m just going to keep on fighting for Alfie".

    Alfie's parents have been embroiled in a lengthy battle for their son - who is suffering an unknown degenerative brain condition - to continue receiving treatment.

    He has been in a "semi-vegetative state" for more than a year and is currently only receiving oxygen after being taken off life support last night.

    Doctors argued that it was in Alfie's best interest to end his life support — a view consistently backed by the courts.

    Today Mr Justice Hayden described Alfie as "a fighter" as he raised the possibility of allowing the tot home or to a hospice for parents Tom Evans and Kate James to be with him in his final days.

    He earlier told the emergency High Court hearing in Manchester: "If there were a more constructive attitude from the family might other options become possible, away from Alder Hey?", adding that taking Alfie home had been suggested.

    But a doctor replied that there was a "genuine fear" among hospital staff of angry demonstrators supporting Alfie's family — adding it could take three to five days to put a plan in place.

    On "courageous" Alfie's future care, Mr Justice Hayden added that options will be discussed with his parents "with the objective of promoting a removal from hospital if possible."

    A plane had been put on standby to fly Alfie to Rome for treatment at the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital after Pope Francis last week lent his support to the child's desperate family.

    But the judge rejected as "disrespectful the principles of international diplomacy" Italy’s efforts to grant Alfie Italian citizenship to see him taken abroad.

    And he slammed some supporters of Alfie’ parents - who were not in court - for giving them "misleading" advice that he said had damaged their relationship with the hospital.

    There have been angry demonstrations and attempts to storm the hospital over recent days as Alfie's case was taken through the courts.

  8. The case of terminally ill Alfie Evans, who has been at the centre of a legal fight over his life support, has captured the world's attention.

    World leaders and the Pope lent support to the 23-month-old's parents, who have spent six months locked in a court battle over their son's care.

    Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, have lost all legal challenges against doctors at Alder Hey Children's Hospital switching off his ventilator.

    Indeed, it was a tweet from the leader of the Catholic Church earlier this month which saw the plight of the toddler, from Bootle, Merseyside, gain global momentum.

    It led to Mr Evans flying to the Vatican, where he begged the pontiff "to save our son" and grant Alfie asylum.

    The Italian government also added its support, and granted Alfie Italian citizenship on Monday with hopes he would be granted an "immediate transfer" to Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome.

    But an appeal against the High Court's ruling that he must stay at Alder Hey failed, and his life support was switched off hours later.

    The following day, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said he believed it "would be right to give another chance to Alfie".

    He said: "Perhaps if they could have tried, without therapeutic rage, to be able to save him in Italy in the Bambino Gesu hospital, for example.

    "I want to give a word of hope also for this little European citizen whose life I believe must be in every way protected."

    The Pope then extended his support from praying for the toddler to appealing Alfie be allowed to get further treatment.

    He tweeted he "renewed my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.

    Polish president Andrzej Duda also reacted to the case.

    He tweeted: "Alfie Evans must be saved! His brave little body has proved again that the miracle of life can be stronger than death. Perhaps all that's needed is some good will on the part of decision makers. Alfie, we pray for you and your recovery!"

    The case has also grabbed headlines throughout the world.

    In the US, right-wing commentators have used the case the criticise state-funded health care

    Conservative blogger Daniel Greenfield wrote: "Free health care for your children means that they are the property of the state."

    Former governor of Arkansas Mick Huckabee has appeared on Fox News but he seemed to blame the British government for the High Court's ruling on the case.

    He said it was "hard for British government to justify".

    "The British government has said no - we're not going to let him leave we they're going to go ahead and kill him. I just find this chilling."

    "They want to save their son. They are willing to take him to Italy and Italy is willing to take him.

    "Why don't they let these parents at least have a shot? They have nothing to lose. If he doesn't make it, well at least they've done everything they can do."

    A gathering outside the British Embassy in Washington DC is being held on Thursday, organised by Rev Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition.

    He claimed 11,000 people joined him in saying prayers for Alfie.

    The British Government does not intervene in cases relating to medical ethics and no politician has entered the debate.

    Several UK judges have ruled that Alder Hey Hospital is acting in Alfie's best interests.

    Medical staff at the hospital have consistently argued that scans show "catastrophic degradation of his brain tissue" and that further treatment is not only "futile" but also "unkind and inhumane"

  9. Alfie Evans, a terminally ill British toddler whose case drew attention from Pope Francis and others around the world, has died, his parents announced Saturday morning.

    Parents Kate James, 20, and Tom Evans, 21, wrote on Facebook that they were “absolutely heartbroken” that they had lost their son.

    Save Alfie Evans
    on Friday

    Thomas Evans is with Kate James.
    Yesterday at 12:20am ·
    My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30 ๐Ÿ˜ฅ๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ฅ๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ฅ absolutely heartbroken๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿ˜ญ I LOVE YOU MY GUY๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ‘จ‍๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿ‘จ‍๐Ÿ‘ฆ

  10. But the British hospital where Alife is staying refused to allow the transfer and the parents sought judgement from the Family Division of the High Court in Manchester. A judge ruled Tuesday that the toddler, who was taken off life support on Monday, is too ill to travel to Vatican City in Rome for treatment.

    Alfie’s parents appealed that ruling to Britain’s Court of Appeal, but on Wednesday three judges on that that court rejected the parent’s request to overturn the lower court ruling denying the transfer of Alfie.

    Parents of Alfie Evans have been embroiled in a lengthy battle over medical treatment for their 23-month-old son who is suffering from an unknown degenerative brain condition. Now Evans' parents are giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in a desperate bid to keep him alive.Video
    Alfie Evans' fight for survival: Parents give mouth-to-mouth
    The abject insanity of it all – the argument that the toddler may die if he travels so best to kill him in Britain – is what has turned the case of Alfie Evans into a worldwide story.

    One of the key facts about Alfie is that no one knows what is ailing him. This alone should be a reason to keep him alive. His lack of definitive diagnosis should mean that, at minimum, he be kept alive until doctors can figure it out.

    The confidence with which doctors are proclaiming Alfie has no chance to improve might make sense if they knew what was wrong with him in the first place. That they don’t, and are letting him die anyway, is damning.

    The hospital, and those who support ending all treatment for Alfie, say that his quality of life is poor and therefore he should be allowed to die ostensibly “with dignity.” But the idea that those who have a less-than-ideal quality of life should be killed is barbaric.

    We treat life as something we can design and perfect. Babies with Down syndrome are being aborted out of existence because we’ve decided that the only high quality of life is the kind that we ourselves enjoy.

    The desire to rid ourselves of imperfect humans cheapens life. Perhaps Alfie Evans will never have what most people would consider a normal life. But that’s irrelevant to whether he should be killed.

    A “normal” life is often imperfect. If they refuse to keep Alfie alive now, will they soon come for your grandfather with the oxygen tank or your mother who has chronic pain? When someone else gets to decide who is living the ideal life, how many of us will die?

    Alfie has defied the odds in remaining alive. Why not give him the chance to fight for his life, and for his parents to know they did everything they could to save their son? Britain needs to answer this question for Alfie and all the Alfies still to come.

  11. The British legal system has sentenced 23-month-old Alfie Evans to death; they say his death is for his own good. While the parents dispute that Evans has been properly diagnosed and the Italian government offers travel and medical care for the toddler, the British judicial system has determined that Alfie’s life is no longer worth living, and has withdrawn life support. He has survived for more than 24 hours nonetheless.

    Suffice it to say that if Alfie’s parents took him home and refused to feed him, they would be prosecuted for child abuse. If a British hospital does it at the behest of British judges, they’re standing on the side of good and right.

    Why? Well, because Alfie is supposed to “die with dignity.” According to hospital staff, their goal was to kill Alfie with “dignity.” Judge Hayden, the presiding judge in this case, talked similarly of “dignity.” An NHS doctor named Rachel Clarke wrote an op-ed for The Guardian (UK) suggesting, “Withdrawal of care is neither killing nor murder, but enables a patient to die with comfort and dignity.”

    First off, that’s not what’s happening here.

    Let’s distinguish between two terms: comfort and dignity. The courts and NHS seem to use these two terms interchangeably, but they are not interchangeable. Death with comfort is something that can be objectively determined – we can tell your pain level, the horrors you’re suffering, the alleviation of that pain from watching. We know that a woman dying of a bowel obstruction who chokes on her own bile is dying an objectively less comfortable death than that same woman being sent to hospice a week earlier and placed on morphine.

    Dignity, however, is a state of mind and a state of being both to yourself and relatively to others. If you are dignified with respect to yourself, you are fulfilling your wishes – and those wishes may range from dying with palliative care to struggling until you take your last breath. If you are dignified with respect to others, you take their wishes into account. Great men and women die in horrible agony on a regular basis, and they are not less dignified for having done so. Comfort and dignity are not identical.

    “Dying with comfort” might be a term applicable to Alfie Evans. “Dying with dignity” isn’t. Alfie doesn’t have a choice here. He’s 23 months old. So the question becomes – even assuming that he will die in the near future – whether his parents or the state gets to choose what “dignity” looks like. The answer should be that his parents get to choose. They get to decide the memories they have of Alfie. They are the people who will be visiting Alfie’s grave. And if they believe that the best – and most dignified – thing for Alfie is to fight for every last second of his life, that’s their perfectly understandable choice.