By Dave Andrusko
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal today rejected the appeal of Alfie Evans’ parents to take their seriously ill 23-month-old son abroad for further diagnosis of his mysterious degenerative brain disease and possible treatment.
Lord Justices Moylan and Davis, and Lady Justice King not only turned down Tom Evans and Kate James, they immediately rejected their application for permission to appeal their decision to the nation’s Supreme Court.
Their lawyer, Paul Diamond, said they would exercise their other option—to go directly to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal—and will do so by the deadline which is 4 pm Tuesday, according to the Liverpool Echo. Meanwhile “Alfie’s Army” continues to peacefully demonstrate outside Alder Hey Childrens’ Hospital in Liverpool.
Tom and Kate have now lost at all three levels of the British judiciary— the trial court (Mr. Justice Hayden), the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. All backed the hospital’s conclusion that Alfie’s condition was terminal, that further treatment would not only be futile but (in Judge Hayden’s words) that maintaining Alfie on a ventilator would compromise his “future dignity.”
The exchanges between the Court of Appeal and Diamond did not bode well for the parents, as judged by reporter Josh Parry’s exhaustive real-time summary of the back and forth.
The Court of Appeal answered virtually every argument Diamond made by saying it had “already been adjudicated.” The parents were up against another virtually insuperable obstacle: the resistance of the independent guardian. Parry wrote
Lord Justice Moylan says that in cases such as Alfie’s, the child is represented by an independent guardian.
Alfie’s guardian has agreed with Alder Hey that withdrawing ventilation is in his best interests.
Again, repeating Lord Justice Hayden’s previously ruling, he says that when there are conflicts between the parents’ preferences and the child’s best interests, then the child’s best interests would prevail.
With the uniform agreement of the hospital, the judiciary, and the independent guardian that it was in Alfie’s “best interest” to die, Diamond took a different tact.
“I’m saying the parents have parental rights, as recognised both in the Children’s Act and in Article 8 that they have the right to remove the child, or unless there is an order in place removing their right. …
“The parents have the right to look after the care and welfare of the child as they see fit” …
“What we’re saying is ‘he has parental rights,’ he wants to take his child, there is no reason to stop him. He still has parental rights.”
To Lord Justice Davis’ conclusion that the “unanimous medical evidence” says that treatment is “futile” and that “You keep on saying the father has the ultimate say,” Diamond replied
“We say, and I keep repeating it … You can’t control every aspect of people’s lives. You cannot say that the parental rights are overridden because the court does not think they’re in Alfie’s best interests.”
Diamond also took on directly Judge Hayden’s oft-repeated observation that Mr. Evans “cannot face its reality and continues to hope for an entirely unrealistic solution.”
“This is more than a father unable to accept the reality, there are signs of improvement. He has video evidence on this very point. He has requested me to request to you whether you’d have time to watch the video evidence.
“He believes you will see a child not looking in the final stages of life, but you will see a child which you will understand why many people have different views on this case and find it very difficult to accept the medical prognosis.”
The Court of Appeal was buying none of this and moreover was clearly angry that Tom Evans had come to the hospital Thursday night and attempted to remove Alfie.
Lord Justice Davis made two points: (1) that removing Alfie from the hospital would have made Alder Hey in breach of a court order; and, as Parry wrote, (2) “He also said that Tom Evans would have been trespassing on the hospital had he done so,”
Born May 9, 2016, Alfie has a terribly degenerative brain disorder that has baffled physicians and specialists. Alfie has been a patient at Alder Hey since December 2016.
Last week Tom and Kate thought they had reached an agreement with Alder Hey to suspend the end-of-life protocol “so they can review Alfie’s situation and see if he is fit to travel abroad for further medical treatment,” as Sarah Evans, Alfie’s aunt, told reporters.
But the hospital never confirmed that. Instead they went back to Judge Hayden to ask “for guidance about a date on which to withdraw treatment from Alfie.”
Then, late last week, as over a thousand people peacefully demonstrated in front of the hospital, Judge Hayden issued an emergency order that paved the way for today’s Monday in the Court of Appeal.