Christian Legal Centre’s chief executive, Andrea Minichiello Williams explains why Alfie Evans – and the Christian Legal Centre’s efforts to help him – are so important.
Since being asked to help Alfie Evans – the boy whose life support Alder Hey Children’s Hospital wants to turn off – many people have asked why the case matters. Why put so much effort into treating just one, very ill boy, which will almost certainly turn out to be futile?
I want to tell you why Alfie matters.
Alfie is made in God’s image
Fundamentally, Alfie matters because he is a human being, made in God’s image and with inherent dignity. From the strongest to the weakest, from the fittest to the frailest, we all matter, and we should all be protected.
The idea that some lives matter more than others, and that this can be decided by judges and other authorities, is abhorrent. It’s the driving force behind racism, gendercide and eugenics. It’s the driving force behind many of the worst atrocities in human history.
Alfie is a human. Just like you, your friends and your family members. In his particularly fragile condition, it is absolutely right that his parents, and many others, are deeply committed to protecting him. This is a deeply Christian impulse – to care for the most vulnerable.
Alfie is undiagnosed, and being offered treatment elsewhere
Some people wrongly think that this case is purely about permission for Alder Hey to turn off Alfie’s life support. It is not. There are indeed times where life is, completely artificially, being sustained, and support of some kind must tragically be turned off.
This is not Alfie’s situation. He remains undiagnosed. There are other, excellent hospitals ready to continue caring for Alfie and attempting to help. An air ambulance crew was blocked from taking Alfie to one of these hospitals – first by Alder Hey, then by the courts.
No one is forcing Alder Hey to keep treating Alfie indefinitely. They are being asked to stand down, pass the medical records on, and allow others to treat him. It is this that Alder Hey has been fighting, tooth and nail.
Alder Hey’s determination to stop Alfie receiving further treatment is surely causing them reputational damage. I’m sure that the hospital does excellent work caring for many small, vulnerable children, so it puzzles me that they are so reluctant to simply transfer Alfie into the care of other medical professionals.
The authorities are not allowing Alfie to die, they are compelling him to die
By preventing further treatment of Alfie, Alder Hey and the courts are compelling Alfie to die.
In a twisted irony, one judge warned of the dangers inherent in transporting Alfie by air, while simultaneously signing off on Alfie’s compelled death. Why such concern for Alfie while he’s in an air ambulance, when you are ordering for his life support to be removed anyway?
This is the moral equivalent of child euthanasia. ‘Experts’ have concluded that Alfie’s life is not worth living and they are determined to end it.
It’s all done in the name of compassion, of course. But ending the life of an innocent children – where continued treatment is being offered, where the child appears responsive, where no diagnosis has even been made – is not for medical professionals and judges to decide.
The state does not respect parents
For decades, we’ve seen the state – through changes to the law and through judgments in family courts stop recognising the limits of its authority in family matters.
No one denies that there are times when the state must intervene – such as when a child is being abused or neglected. But, more and more, as in Alfie’s case, the state is overriding the parents’ views on what’s best for their children.
Courts simply assume that their duty is always to do what they think is best – not to apply the law. (So we encounter another irony – that ex-magistrate Richard Page was dismissed from his role for doing exactly that).
Apart from in the clearest of cases, or where an adjudication between the parents of a child must be made, courts should be extremely reluctant to override the parents’ wishes. Parents are, on the whole, deeply invested in the wellbeing of their children. They spend their whole lives with them – not just a few days in court. Court is not always – in fact, not normally – the best place to decide such things.
The path we are on leads only to a form of benevolent totalitarianism – the paternalistic state deciding in as many cases as possible what is ‘best’ for its people, and having no respect for the God-given, natural, rights and responsibilities of parents.
Vaguely-worded human ‘rights’ are overriding ancient freedoms
In court, barrister Paul Diamond, acting on behalf of the parents, argued habeas corpus. This is an ancient recourse in law, requiring a court to prove that a detainee – Alfie Evans, in this case – is being lawfully held captive.
In their judgments, the courts brushed this point aside, arguing that they had, instead, a duty in international law to seek the child’s best interests. The vaguely-worded, broadly-defined UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, apparently overrides the concrete, centuries-old Habeas Corpus Act. Not just in overriding the wishes of those closest to Alfie – the parents – but in ensuring Alfie’s death.
Once again, we see the effects of the ever-expanding list of ‘human rights’ – that is, human-given rights, which inevitably contradict one another – becoming, in reality, no rights at all.
Why bother with rights or law at all that relate to children if they are overruled, in court judgments, by the duty for a judge to seek a child’s best interest?
Endlessly increasing and relying upon human rights creates yet another irony – absolute power being concentrated in the hands of imperfect judges alone. It is an abandonment of the rule of law.
The right to end life is not theirs
Even while supporting Alfie’s parents in their struggle to save Alfie, I have little doubt that Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, the other medical witnesses and the judges genuinely seek Alfie’s wellbeing. The problem is that they have overruled the parents and decided that they should compel Alfie’s death.
But the right to end innocent life is not theirs – it is God’s alone. They are playing God with Alfie’s life.
Our society, turning away from the true God, so readily assumes that we must take his place. From the government and the courts, to schools, hospitals and care workers, in God’s apparent (but not real) absence, we expect institutions to take his place and save us from all evil.
This is impossible.
We must instead call on God to make things right, and while we are waiting, do all that we can with what we have, to seek justice and to do what is right.
Because Alfie matters.
Article reproduced by kind permission of Christian Concern