ALFIE EVANS, the terminally ill child in Liverpool, could be allowed to go home from hospital in the next couple of days, after his parents met doctors on Thursday.
Tom Evans and Katie James said that they wanted to “build bridges” with staff at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool following protests by the family’s supporters.
Mr Evans said that he and Ms James were prepared to work with medical staff to give their 23-month-old son “the dignity and comfort he needs” in his last days.
Doctors at the hospital were granted permission to turn off Alfie’s life support and allow him to die, having concluded that his condition — an unidentified degenerative neurological disorder — was untreatable. Prolonging his life would be “unkind and inhumane”, they argued.
Alfie’s parents repeatedly appealed against rulings given in favour of the doctors, and took the case to the Supreme Court. They argued that Alfie should be transferred to the Bambino Gesu Hospital, in Rome, which is linked to the Vatican, to explore new treatment options.
On Thursday Mr Evans said: “Our lives have been turned upside down by the intense focus on Alfie and his situation. Our little family, along with Alder Hey, has become the centre of attention for many people around the world, and it has meant we have not been able to live our lives as we would like.
“We are very grateful and we appreciate all the support we have received from around the world, including from our Italian and Polish supporters who have dedicated their time and support. We now ask you to return back to your everyday lives and allow myself, Kate and Alder Hey to form a relationship, build a bridge and walk across it.
“We also wish to thank Alder Hey staff at every level for their dignity and professionalism during what must be an incredibly difficult time for them, too. Together we recognise the strains recent events have put upon us all and we now wish for privacy for everyone concerned.
“In Alfie’s interests we will work with his treating team on a plan that provides our boy with the dignity and comfort he needs. From this point onwards there will be no more statements issued or interviews given.”
Earlier this week, the activist legal group representing the child was strongly criticised by a judge, Mr Justice Hayden.
Lawyers and others from the Christian Legal Centre — connected to the conservative Evangelical lobby group Christian Concern — have been arguing on behalf of Alfie’s parents through a series of legal wrangles since last December.
Mr Justice Hayden castigated some of those from the Christian Legal Centre who have been making the parents’ case; and he accused others of exploiting the case for their own political ends. All those with medical knowledge of the case agreed that the damage caused to Alfie’ brain by the disorder was “catastrophic and untreatable”.
On Friday, Christian Concern released a statement that said: “In recent days, in addition to significant support we have endured some media and judicial criticism. We consider this unfair and detrimental.
We reject the prejudicial and inflammatory comments made by Mr Justice Hayden. We also reject the portrayal by the Court of Appeal of our role in this case and the assistance that we have offered to Mr Evans.”
It also denied that it supported pursuing a criminal prosecution of the doctors.
One activist who has been with the couple in court, Pavel Stroilov, was described by the judge as a “deluded and fanatical young man” who had prepared witness statements “littered with vituperation and bile”.
Mr Stroilov, who is not thought to be a qualified lawyer, also advised Mr Evans that he could remove Alfie from the hospital, which would have breached a Court of Appeal ruling and risked imprisonment for contempt of court. Mr Stroilov suggested pursuing a private prosecution for murder against the doctors, and court heard on Tuesday that three doctors had been issued with summonses.
Not everyone in “Alfie’s army” of supporters had the best interests of Mr Evans and Ms James at heart, Mr Justice Hayden warned the couple. During an earlier hearing, he said that he was worried about “those around that peck away at the good advice”.
Police had to form a protective cordon around the entrance to Alder Hey on Monday, after a group of the child’s supporters tried to storm the hospital in protest at the European Court of Human Rights’ refusal to take up his case.
The Christian Legal Centre has previously represented several Christians in prominent court cases. They have acted on behalf of a Christian nurse whom they said was fired after offering to pray with patients; a worker at Heathrow who said that anti-Christian discrimination forced her out of her job; a nursery employee fired after she told colleagues that homosexuality was a sin; and a family-court magistrate removed from office because he refused to approve adoptions by same-sex couples.
Alfie’s parents were earlier represented by MSB Solicitors. A lawyer there, Mary Holmes, has accused the Christian Legal Centre of exploiting the situation.
“These people I don’t believe are in it because they love Alfie,” she told The Times. “When this case is over, they’ll move on to the next. Or they’ll find some other cause they can ride on the back of. I just think they pick on the vulnerable, and they are easy prey.”
Ms Holmes also said that the activists were keeping Alfie alive “not for the right reason”, but to keep themselves in the public eye, noting that the publicity had even brought about a meeting with Pope Francis.
Mr Evans flew to the Vatican on 18 April, and was pictured meeting the Pope, who subsequently tweeted his support for the couple’s cause: “I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”
On Thursday Mr Evans appeared to have reversed his stance, pledging to work with the Alder Hey medical team in Alfie’s best interests.