By Isaiah Minter | United States
One story getting little attention from the mainstream media is the story of Alfie Evans, a terminally ill toddler prevented from leaving Britain for medical treatment. Alfie has spent more than a year in a semi-vegetative state, suffering from a neurodegenerative disease. Over this span, he was kept alive in the critical care unit of Alder Hey Hospital by artificial ventilation. Unfortunately, since then, a conflict has ensued between the hospital and Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James.
As a result of Alfie’s unresponsiveness to active treatment, the hospital suggested that he be taken off life support. The parents disagreed, and his case was referred to the Family Division of the UK court, only for the court to rule in favor of the hospital. Alfie’s parents appealed the decision, only to lose that appeal and watch the Supreme Court dismiss the case.
Moreover, High Court Justice Anthony Hayden struck down the plan to take Alfie to Rome for medical treatment and stated that Alfie’s life support be ended on Monday morning.
In the hours after Alfie was taken off ventilation support, hospital staff refused to provide the toddler with ventilation and hydration. If Alfie’s parent were to do this, they would be charged with child abuse, but under Britain’s system of socialized medicine, it’s simply a hospital decision reinforced by a court ruling. An evil action doesn’t magically become permissible because individuals with power perform it.
It is nothing short of tragic for the life of a human being to be in the hands of someone other than oneself or one’s own family. Why Anthony Hayden gets to be the arbiter of the life of a toddler is beyond my understanding. Haden is a human being no nobler than Alfie’s parents, nor is the life of his child the one being ruled upon. The incentives of the two parties are very different: if Hayden is wrong, he does not lose a beloved child and his judicial tenure will go on. On the other hand, the loss of a child is a heart-wrenching moment for any parent, and Alfie’s parents will bear a price should they choose the ‘wrong decision.’
I use the term wrong decision loosely, as it is the only reasonable decision offered thus far, and yet the most shunned. If Alfie is guaranteed to be knocking on death’s door, it makes little sense to strip the parents of any remaining comfort they can enjoy with their child and accelerate his demise by starving him of life necessities. It must be emphasized that Alfie Evans is breathing without life support as I am writing this, contra the opinions offered by his doctors.
For all the talk of a ‘right’ to healthcare in this country, it is surprising that there is not more concern over this issue. Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, spent his campaign decrying the American medical care system for denying care to poor Americans because of an inability to pay but has failed to speak on Alfie being denied medical care due to the British government. Ideological consistency is lacking in today’s politics.
In a broader sense, Alfie’s case is one of many examples illustrating the destruction of parental sovereignty across a range of issues, education and healthcare in particular. Hardly has any evidence been put forth showing benefits of this trend. I like to think the Western world can do better for our children, but perhaps I am overly optimistic.
The underlying theme in all of this, that Alfie’s parents are prevented from even choosing their own child’s treatment plan while he is dying, is nothing short of state cruelty. The economist Thomas Sowell once said:
The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.
The great danger that Alfie Evans is dealing with, and one that must be stressed to Progressives who want the government to adopt a bigger role in these issues, is that when you allow the government to decide what you need, you inadvertently allow it to decide what you do not need.