Medical Authoritarianism and Tinslee Lewis, Charlie Gard, and Alfie Evans

By Dave Andrusko

Earlier today, we reposted a terrific story written by pro-life bioethicist Wesley J. Smith. The immediate context was the attempt by Cook Children’s Medical Center in Ft. Worth, Texas to win the right to take little Tinslee Lewis off of life support and (this is really scary) “prevent her mother from pursuing alternative care.” Since he wrote the story (as we also noted earlier today), the Second Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that denied a temporary injunction, protecting the baby’s life, as least for now.

What makes this one of Wesley’s very best posts is that he puts he predicament Baby Lewis and her mother, Trinity Lewis, in an international context. He cites two cases which NRL News Today wrote about extensively: Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans.

In each case, the hospital secured permission (actually encouragement) from judges to substitute their judgments about “quality of life” for the parents’ determination to transfer their children to medical facilities that would treat their children. (This is why Wesley headlined his story, “‘Quality of Life’ Medical Authoritarianism Invades Texas.”)

In both cases, the judges agreed with the hospitals that withdrawing life support—and ending the child’s life”—was the appropriate course—that “continuing to live was not in the baby’s ‘best interests,’” as Wesley aptly described the doctors’ views.

Below is one of many stories I wrote about Alfie which also discusses Charlie. I wrote it April 30, 2018, just after the hospital refused to allow Alfie’s parents to take him home to die. They illustrate what all too often takes place in the UK and could easily happen here, if Cook Children’s Medical Center prevails.


Alfie Evans: Rest in Peace

By Dave Andrusko

Alfie Evans died one month short of his second birthday. The little boy spent most of his brief life in the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, England. At the end of this story, we have reposted a poem his mom, Kate James, posted on Facebook after he died at 2:30 am last Saturday morning. It is far more eloquent than anything I could write, and infinitely more powerful.

The irony was not lost on the more 600,000 strong “Alfies Army” that Alfie’s parents, Kate and Tom Evans, spent much of the last year of Alfie’s life fighting with that very same hospital, initially over treatment for their grievously ill son and then over their request to move him elsewhere for possible treatment and (as the Supreme Court of England described it) “to perform a tracheotomy and a gastrostomy in order perhaps to enable ventilation to be given in a home environment.”

We first heard about Alfie and Tom and Kate when bioethicist Wesley J. Smith posted a column under the headline , “Another Charlie Gard”? The parallels were eerily, uncannily similar to Charlie’s, who died in 2017.

Just like Tom and Kate, Connie Yates and Chris Gard battled an unresponsive judiciary (in the form of Justice Nicholas Francis) and a famous children’s hospital (Great Ormond Street Hospital ) which steadfastly refused their plea to permit them to take their own son to the United States for experimental therapy.

There is so much to say about this little family. Nothing outshines Tom’s and Kate’s determination to do everything humanly possible for their son. But facing the entirety of the British judiciary and the power and prestige of Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, it was never going to be a fair fight.

It is true that after Alfie was disconnected from a ventilator and the hospital finally began feeding him again, after a gap of more than a day, his odds increased from zero. That unpardonable gap was not the hospital’s finest hour.

Perhaps the odds were a little less stacked against this very young couple after Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with Tom, 21, and Kate, 20. (After Alfie’s death, Pope Francis tweeted, “I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie. Today I pray especially for his parents, as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace.”)

And maybe Alfie’s chances were marginally improved when the Italian ambassador granted Alfie Italian citizenship so that he could be taken to Rome for treatment; when the European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, said he believed it “would be right to give another chance to Alfie”; and Polish president Andrzej Duda 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!”

But in the final analysis, after Mr. Justice Hayden, the trial judge, and the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court repeatedly turned down their pleas to transfer Alfie to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, the best Kate and Tom could hope for was to be able to bring Alfie home to die.

On Thursday, Tom offered the hospital an olive branch—actually many olive branches—in the form of a letter read to the media in which he praised the hospital staff and asked Alfie’s Army to “stand down” (as the media described it).

Nonetheless to the surprise of very few, Alfie never made it home.

The Rev. James Schall , SJ, was harsh, but accurate, I believe, when he wrote prior to Alfie’s death

Alfie is kept a prisoner in a hospital to protect a government health system’s credibility. Alfie must die there rather than take a chance that he might live. An Italian hospital plane was there to take him away. He should die in the care of his parents.

For now, just one more of many possible considerations. More than a few have asked, what would have been the media attention in the United States if it had been Louis, Prince William and Kate’s new baby boy, who was so very, very ill, or one of their older children, George or Charlotte?

Somehow I’m guessing it would have approached 24/7, rather than a passing few references outside of pro-life and conservative media circles.

Our prayers go out to Tom and Kate, their families, all of Alfie’s Army, and to all those good-hearted people who cared so much about what to one little child of God.

Kate James shared a post.

Mummy pleas don’t cry now.
For I must go to sleep.
I’ll be beside you always.
To dry the tears you weep.
Daddy please be strong now.
It’s time for me to rest.
The three of us together dad.
We fought, we done our best.
You took my fight to everyone.
The courts, the queen, the pope.
While still caring for your baby.
You never give up hope.
And now the pain bears heavy.
As the time has come to part.
Though you no longer hold me in your arms.
I’ll live on in your heart.
For the good Lord he has called me.
To sit there by his side.
Watching over both of you.
With never ending pride.
A last message to my army.
Please hold your loved ones tight.
For no one’s time is promised.
Now I must say goodnight.
Sleep sweetly beautiful boy. The world grieves for you.