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Parents go to court to transfer terminally ill child to Vatican hospital

Alfie Evans (Alfie's Army Facebook group)

The parents of a terminally ill 20-month-old boy in Liverpool are fighting a legal battle to take him for treatment at the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome.

In a case reminiscent of Charlie Gard, doctors in England believe further treatment for young Alfie Evans would be inappropriate, but his parents have taken Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to court in a bid to move him.

Three consultants from the Bambino Gesù hospital visited Alfie in Liverpool and agreed treatment would be “completely futile” in terms of curing him.

However, they still offered to take him to Rome for operations to help him breathe and eat, which would allow him to survive for an “undefined period”.

Hospital staff in Liverpool say such treatment would be “inappropriate”. Dr Helen Cross said it would prolong his life “unnecessarily” as “his brain is being progressively destroyed and there is no prospect of recovery”.

The Anscome Bioethics Centre said the Alfie Evans case involves “very similar” ethical principles to that of Charlie Gard.

“Doctors should not be forced to continue treatment if they believe it offers little or no benefit relative to the burdens it entails, nor should they be forced to refer for specific treatments that they do not believe to be in the best interests of their patient,” the centre said.

However, they added that in the case of infants “parents have prime responsibility for their own child and their rights should not be taken away unless they are acting so unreasonably as to put their child at significant risk”.

“When parents have lost faith in the doctors caring for their child they should be allowed to transfer the care of their child to other doctors, provided the child can be moved without undue risk or burden,” they added.

Tom Evans, Alfie’s father, told the court: “At the moment we are not willing to let him die, but if we have turned all the stones over and don’t wake our child up… we will wait for him to deteriorate and let him die in his own way.”

The court case continues.