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Motion calls on Government to review its approach to travel requests following death of Alfie Evans

 

An Early Day Motion in the UK Parliament has called on the UK Government to review its current approach to requests by patients or relatives to seek medical assistance abroad.

 

The motion follows the death of 23 month old Alfie Evans after a long battle to allow his parents to take him to the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome where it was hoped Alfie would receive new treatment to prolong his life.  

 

Alfie suffered from a degenerative neurological condition and the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust went to the High Court seeking a declaration that continued ventilator support is not in Alfie’s best interests and in the circumstances it is not lawful that such treatment continue.

 

Alfie’s parents, however, believed that they should decide what is best for their son, not the court.

 

Alfie’s father, Tom, travelled to Rome to plead with Pope Francis to intervene to help “save our son”. Within hours the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had granted Alfie Italian citizenship which would allow him to receive treatment in Rome. Pope Francis also tweeted his support, saying: “I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”

 

The court, however, dismissed the parents’ argument and Alfie’s life support was turned off at 9pm on Monday. He died four days later.

 

The parliamentary motion has urged the Government to review requests such as the one made by Alfie’s parents, so that patients are not prevented from seeking medical care abroad, ‘especially in circumstances where a hospital abroad is willing and able to provide the required medical care, the needed medical treatment is not available in the UK, or the patient is a citizen of another country’.

  

There is of course a strong argument here for protecting the basic principle of subsidiarity and giving parents the freedom to decide what is best for their children, especially if there is the possibility of new or alternative treatment which may benefit the patient.

 

Of course it may be legitimate to discontinue medical procedures if they are ‘burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2278). However, unlike euthanasia, the will here is not to cause death; it is simply that ‘one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted.’ The Church teaches that such decisions with regard to treatment should be made by the patient or, if he or she is not competent, by those legally entitled to act for the patient.

 

The argument in the case of Alfie Evans was about who was ‘legally entitled’ to act on his behalf. The parents believed it was them. However, the Court ultimately took a different view and, using the Children’s Act 1989 exercised what it believed to be its legitimate right to intervene on behalf of the state where a child is believed to be at risk of harm.

 

We pray for the peaceful repose of Alfie’s soul and for his parents at this very sad time. Requiescat in pace.

 

Click here to access the Early Day Motion: https://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/1221