Thanks to Britain, Alfie Evans never got the chance for 'death with dignity'

Thanks to Britain, Alfie Evans never got the chance for 'death with dignity'
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Alfie Evans’ story is every parent’s worst nightmare: Your small child is lying in a hospital bed for over a year with a condition that no one has been able to diagnose and therefore, no one has been able to properly treat. You are overwhelmed by your powerlessness. The hospital has just ordered that your son’s life support be removed and is now refusing to give him basic sustenance or to allow you, his parents, to take him to another hospital to receive medical treatment. You are fighting against the government, the courts, and the hospital that are keeping your child captive.

Tragically, on Saturday, five days after his life support was removed, Alfie Evans died at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in England. Collectively, millions who had never known the boy or his parents expressed their outrage and felt their grief.

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The fight for Alfie's life forces us to ask two looming questions, questions which may impact all of us at some point in our lives. First, do parents have the right to seek and choose medical care for their children? And second, should the government get to decide that a life is no longer worth living?

The British government, courts, and hospital got the answers to both questions wrong. In their eyes, all Alfie’s care should be decided by the state, not his parents. This past December, Alder Hey decided it was time to take Alfie off life support, and his parents made every appeal possible to win continued treatment for their son — or to take him elsewhere.

Italy gave Alfie citizenship, and his parents had offers of care in Rome, where doctors said they would investigate different treatments. Even Pope Francis appealed to the British government to let Alfie go. Yet the British government barred Alfie’s parents from taking him to Italy or anywhere else to try to save his life. Despite tests that showed Alfie was not in pain, the courts ruled — at the hospital’s urging — that moving Alfie anywhere else was unacceptable. That’s a lethal abuse of power and reminiscent of dictatorships that built walls around their countries to keep people in.

Alfie’s parents watched while their son was held captive in a British hospital. The final decision about his care was not theirs to make. This core flaw in the British system has harmed other parents, too.

Last year in Britain, the courts saw a similar case and denied the many appeals of infant Charlie Gard’s parents, ruling in favor of the health system that his life support could be turned off. When offers were made to fly Charlie to the U.S. for special treatment, the courts then also refused to let him leave the country, claiming that the trip and the treatments would only prolong his suffering. Like Alfie, Charlie’s life was deemed no longer worth living, and his parents were prevented from doing anything more to help him.

And back in March, just two months ago, one-year-old brain-damaged Isaiah Haastrup was taken off life support as a British high court judge similarly ruled that it was in the child’s best interest for treatment to be withdrawn.

Implied in the courts’ refusal to let Alfie and others seek treatment in other countries by other doctors is the notion that the National Health Service in England, not their parents, is the proper guardian of children. It’s as if the courts and the hospitals are solely focused on promoting the narrative that they are both the final authority and infallible.

One justice who ruled against the Evanses in one of their last legal appeals declared that Alfie’s father Tom’s grief and his cries for help had “an almost primal quality,” as if he were observing an animal. The air of superiority in his words was obvious. He represented the all-knowing, all-powerful state — a state that watches as children slowly die, depriving them of food, water, and oxygen, all to prove that the government is the ultimate authority over parents, and even over life and death.

Being sick is not a crime that warrants death, yet Alfie’s condition was treated as justification for withholding basic life sustaining care. Last Monday, when the hospital withdrew Alfie’s life support, he was initially denied oxygen, food and water to hasten his death. During his final ordeal, Alfie was deprived of food for approximately 28 consecutive hours. Nutrition is not extraordinary medical treatment, it’s a basic necessity for all life. Withholding food is not medicine, and in Alfie’s case, it was an act designed to kill. This act alone was a violation of medical ethics which affirm that every patient should be provided basic care. But it was an act in line with the hospital’s and court’s agenda to end Alfie’s life.

Alfie Evans’, Charlie Gard’s, and Isaiah Haastrup’s tragedies are the alarm bells warning of the dangers of continuing down this path. If nothing changes in Britain, we can expect these abuses to continue and even multiply. These children and their parents deserved better from a system that failed them and violated their rights.

Alfie’s death wasn’t “death with dignity” and it wasn’t mercy, as some have tried to argue. By forcing the deaths of children it deems no longer fit to live, the British system is undermining the very dignity and value of human lives it alleges to protect.

Lila Rose is the president and founder of the national pro-life organization Live Action. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.