11:59, March 06 462 0 theguardian.com

2018-03-06 11:59:07
Appeal court upholds ruling on Alfie Evans life support

The parents of a seriously ill 21-month-old boy have lost the latest stage of a legal fight to keep him on life support.

Three court of appeal judges ruled on Tuesday that doctors could stop treating Alfie Evans, who is in a semi-vegetative state due to a degenerative neurological condition.

Upholding an earlier high court ruling that Alfie’s father has said was a “death penalty”, the appeal court judges said it was in the toddler’s best interests for doctors to remove his life-support treatment.

The judge, Mrs Justice King, said the latest medical evidence showed Alfie was “deeply comatose” and “to all intents and purposes unaware of his surroundings”.

Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, listened to the court ruling via telephone link from Alfie’s bedside at Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool.

It remains unclear whether the parents will seek to challenge the appeal court ruling, which came a fortnight after the high court decided further treatment would harm Alfie’s “future dignity”.

During legal proceedings in both Liverpool and London, judges have heard that the toddler’s condition is terminal and that his brain is “entirely beyond recovery”.

Doctors have been unable to definitively diagnose Alfie’s condition, which MRI scans show has destroyed 70% of his brain matter.

Backed by a large and growing army of supporters, Alfie’s parents wanted to take the boy to a Vatican-linked children’s hospital in Italy for further diagnosis and treatment.

King praised the parents’ determination to “fight on with Alfie’s army” but said they had “no clear plan”.

Stephen Knafler QC, who is leading Alfie’s parents’ legal team, said the state had wrongly interfered with “parental choice”. He said Alfie’s parents wanted to move him to a hospital in Europe but the high court ruling had prevented them from doing that.

King said the high court judge Mr Justice Hayden had considered all evidence presented to him and “could not have done more to ensure father and mother had every opportunity to express their views and have them taken into consideration”.

She said his approach had been gentle and considerate and he could not have given the couple greater respect. But she said the best interests of the child had to prevail.

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