Final decision on Alfie Evans likely on Tuesday

Parents appealing judge’s decision to disconnect his ventilator

By Dave Andrusko

A three judge Court of Appeal sitting in London announced Thursday that they will rule on whether the parents of gravely ill Alfie Evan may appeal a judge’s decision to allow their son’s ventilator to be removed and also make a decision on the appeal itself next Tuesday.

Stephen Knafler, the parents’ attorney, had asked for a “dignified pause” after the case was heard. But according to Liverpool Echo reporter Josh Parry, Lord Justice McFarlane said, “Our decision is to refuse the application for an adjournment.

“He said this was “’largely on the basis the appeal is ready to be heard, in terms of marshalling the legal arguments.’

“He added: ‘There is merit in those being presented today.’”

If the Liverpool Echo’s almost minute-by-minute updates of Thursday hearing are accurate, prospects are slim the Court of Appeal will give Tom Evans and Kate James what they are seeking: the right to take Alfie to Bambino Gesu, a hospital in Italy, to see if they could determined the exact nature of their son’s brain disease and possibly find a cure.

Doctors at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool, England, say that as much as 70% of “certain matter in his brain” is now gone, Alfie’s condition is “terminal,” and that maintaining the 21-month-old on a ventilator is “futile.”

Alfie’s parents vigorously dispute that and, in any event, say it should their right as his parents to decide treatment for him.

The vast difference in viewpoint was captured in a two set of exchanges (these from the Liverpool Echo updates] :

Mr. Knafler said the procedures would allow more parental contact and cuddles and “greater intimacy”, as well as less sedation.

He said Alfie’s parents were “fighting for a few more months abroad” to continue the search for a cure through a transfer to another hospital prepared to keep Alfie alive.

He said: “They are fighting for a few more months abroad to continue to explore options. That is a position that millions of parents around the world would adopt.

“He may die in the battle, but that would be a hero’s death. Millions would regard that as a noble and heroic death, compared with a managed death in a hospital setting.”

This sparked a response from Lady Justice King who asked

if Alfie’s parents desired option–a tracheotomy and gastrostomy procedure and transfer to a hospital abroad– could actually risk “significant harm”.

She said: “He might die on the table – an undignified, unplanned death.”

Then there was the crucial discussion of what Alfie’s case was actually about:

Mr. Knafler suggested the case is principally about Alder Hey blocking the parents’ plan to move their child to a hospital abroad.

But Lady Justice King said that was not how the question was really framed in the case–it was an application by Alder Hey to not continue ventilation as they did not think it was in Alfie’s best interests.

At the end of the hearing, Lord Justice McFarlane said the judgment would be rendered at 2pm on Tuesday.

“Your clients undoubtedly may want to be here. If they didn’t that wouldn’t be taken as a matter of criticism.

“We could set up a telephone link so they could listen [to] the judgement.”

Mr Knafler – “Yes, that’s what they wish.”