Judge sympathises with Alfie Evans' parents but endorses end-of-life care plan

A High Court judge has expressed his sympathy for the parents of a 23-month-old boy who is approaching death after being at the centre of a life-support treatment battle.

Mr Justice Hayden described what had happened to Alfie Evans as "profoundly unfair" as he endorsed an end-of-life care plan drawn up by specialists.

Alfie's parents, Tom Evans and Kate James who are both in their 20s and from Liverpool, have lost treatment fights in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights.

Alfie's parents, Tom Evans and Kate James (Philip Toscano/PA)
Alfie's parents Tom Evans and Kate James (Philip Toscano/PA)

In February, Mr Justice Hayden ruled that doctors at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool could stop treating Alfie against the wishes of his parents following hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London and Liverpool.

On Wednesday, during a follow-up hearing in London, he endorsed a plan put forward by Alder Hey doctors for withdrawing life support treatment.

The judge said detail of that plan could not be revealed because Alfie was entitled to privacy at the end of his life.

He said the couple had left no stone unturned in their fight for continued treatment.

Mr Justice Hayden said Mr Evans delighted in Alfie and had encountered an unfairness about which he could do nothing.

"He is at times hot-headed and impetuous but he delights in his son," said the judge.

"Tom, at 21, has encountered an unfairness about which he can do nothing.

"His frustration at that has been palpable."

Judges have heard that Alfie, who was born on May 9 2016, is in a "semi-vegetative state" and has a degenerative neurological condition doctors have not definitively diagnosed.

Specialists at Alder Hey said life-support treatment should stop and Mr Justice Hayden said he accepted medical evidence which showed that further treatment was futile.

Alfie Evans (Alfies Army Official/PA)
Alfie Evans (Alfies Army Official/PA)

Court of Appeal judges upheld his ruling.

Supreme Court justices and European Court of Human Rights judges have refused to intervene.

Alfie's parents have complained that "the state" is wrongly interfering with their parental choice.

They want to move Alfie to a hospital in Rome or Germany.

Neither were at Wednesday's hearing.

A barrister representing Alfie's parents said Mr Evans believed the little boy was showing signs of "cognitive improvement".

Paul Diamond said Mr Evans wanted a fresh assessment.

But Mr Justice Hayden said the hearing had been staged so that he could help Alfie's parents and doctors decide exactly when treatment should stop.

The judge said the "terrible reality" was that Alfie's brain had been almost entirely eroded.

He said that "remorseless" erosion was "profoundly unfair".

But he said there was a consensus of medical opinion.

He said it would not be possible for Alfie's parents to make "further applications".

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