The mechanical clank and whir of machinery hammers the air, pulsing like an enormous clock. Only this clock is counting down, not forward. The metronome beep of heart monitor fills the cramped hospital room. The miniaturized bed, with rails and buttons and knobs, is surrounded by flowers --- some fresh, others dry and wilted.
In the bed, a resting baby, sleeping in a nest of wires, thorny and prodded. His hand barely fits around your index finger. When you rest your hand around his little fist, his eyes open, wide but tired next to a smiling pale-blue teddy bear. He’s tiny and peaceful and quiet in his grey Mickey Mouse sweater.
Baby Alfie is dying. Not just dying. Withering. And if you look closer, the bed is occasionally stained with urine that the nurses haven’t cleaned. A dime-sized splotch of mold lines the tubing that helps Alfie breathe. Now 23 months old, Alfie has been here at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool England since December of 2016.
At the heart of the struggle is a terse, brutal, upsetting question: Who owns our children? Do we? Do you own your child? Or does the state own your child?
This is about a lot of things --- the sanctity of life, the importance of proper health care, the downfalls of a socialistic healthcare system, the preciousness of life. But what matters most is that this is about parental rights. Of course that's what matters most.
Let’s get this baby out of a hospital that has callously signed his death certificate while he’s still fighting for his life.
Doctors and health care officials have ordered that baby Alfie’s life support must be removed.
Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, have tried everything. Doctors have said he’s unresponsive. Other than that, they cannot offer a full diagnosis. Maybe it’s a rare degenerative brain disease. What we know is that doctors and health care officials have ordered that baby Alfie’s life support must be removed.
Tom and Kate have tried everything. Regional Court, Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court. Every time, the judges have ruled in favor of doctors and health care officials --- in favor of the state.
There’s a fuming hopelessness to Tom’s eyes every time he leaves a courtroom in his white “Alfie = Life” t-shirt. At times, he’s angry. That desperate anger of injustice --- in utter disbelief. He's a 21-year-old father who cannot so much as touch his son. If he did, he could be thrown in jail for assault. His words rush along in his Scouse accent, so hurried and thick that many news sources include subtitles.
The National Health Service, Britain’s clogged, failing healthcare system, has no space or time for critically-ill children, even if the hospital’s maltreatment has largely contributed to the child’s conditions. Alfie’s struggle is reminiscent of the tragic case of Charlie Gard, an 11-month-old boy will a rare genetic order, whose parents fought to keep alive, only to have the National Health Service transfer him to hospice, where, despite his parents’ pleas to try different methods --- to try anything at all --- he died.
There are plenty more cases. It’s terrifying.
And there are plenty more cases. It’s terrifying. The NHS just can’t make room for possibilities. People in England are noticing it. Outside the hospital where Alfie’s fighting for his life, a band of protestors are passionate, at times to a fault. Tom and Kate have publically apologized for the disruptions protestors caused.
Have you ever seen a baby, a child, on life support? As you would imagine, it’s awful. It’s deafening. All the medical equipment looms massively over the baby’s little body. But those awful machines are helping fight for life. They’re buying time so that doctors can intervene and fight harder, and fight with all the vigor in their hearts. Fight until they're exhausted, to keep the flame of life alive. It’s far beyond the Hippocratic Oath. It’s far beyond duty.
Alfie’s parents have tried everything. They’ve had hospitals offer to intervene, only to have the NHS step in and say, “It’s time to say your goodbyes.” The Pope has offered to fly baby Alfie to Italy for treatment. There’s an ambulance on-call outside the hospital, and a private jet waiting, ready to take him to Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital in Rome.
The Pope tweeted, "I am praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved.” Because they can’t hold their own son. They can’t save his life. His life doesn’t belong to them. His life belongs to the state.