The family of terminally-ill Alfie Evans’ parents have launched a new legal fight to keep him alive as a new mass protest was called outside Alder Hey Hospital today.
The Liverpool hospital have the right to end the little boy’s life within hours after winning a high profile court battle with his parents Tom Evans and Kate James.
But the couple have secured a new Court of Appeal hearing on Monday in the hope they can ‘free’ the toddler and take him for treatment in Europe.
Police were called last night as Mr Evans brought their passports and declared they were going to take ‘his flight out to Italy’ but claims six officers were then brought in to stop it.
Mr Evans said a jet was waiting at John Lennon airport and it is understood he plans to take his son to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital in Rome for diagnosis and possible treatment after they received backing from Pope Francis.
But their attempt to discharge their son failed and the Save Alfie Evans campaign group, which is backed by the family, has called for all supporters to return to the hospital for fresh protests today.
It came as the couple’s MEP Steven Woolfe said Alder Hey ‘is more concerned with saving face than saving a young child’s life’.
Alfie Evan’s parents Tom Evans and Kate James joined hundreds of people taking part in a protest outside Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool last night and a new show of support is planned today
Addressing supporters, Mr Evans said he had ‘removed all duty of care’ from doctors and that Alfie is ‘waiting for his flight out to Italy’ having brought the family passport
Supporters have promised to return today as they try to ‘free’ the little boy from the hospital
Police were called to the Liverpool Hospital last night as ‘thousands’ of protesters arrived to demand the two-year-old be released
It is understood that the family’s lawyers were last night in mediation with Alder Hey Hospital. Protesters were chanting and singing in support of the desperately-ill youngster and his family
Alfie’s parents Mr Evans and Kate James walked hand-in-hand surrounded by hundreds of supporters and well-wishers who demonstrated outside the hospital
Mr Evans used a megaphone to address crowds of well-wishers, telling them that they hoped Alfie would be released by the hospital tomorrow
Merseyside Police appealed for the protesters to be peaceful as ‘Alfie’s Army’ demanded his release from the hospital, chanting ‘Let him go’ and ‘While Alfie keeps fighting we’ll keep fighting’
A High Court judge yesterday endorsed an end-of-life care plan for the 23-month-old, but Tom Evans said he had ‘removed all duty of care’ from doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
Alfie Evans’ father Tom hugs Kate James after speaking to the huge crowd outside Alder Hey hospital
Police officers hold a protester outside the hospital. Merseyside Police Assistant Chief Constable Serena Kennedy said the protest had caused significant traffic disruption
Protesters and well-wishers demanded the hospital release Alfie. It is understood his father wants to take his son to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital in Rome for diagnosis and possible treatment
Assistant Chief Constable Serena Kennedy thanked Alfie’s parents ‘for the way in which Alfie’s family were later able to speak to the crowd and offer assurance and calm’
In a video he posted to Facebook, Mr Evans claims he is legally entitled to remove Alfie from the hospital’s care, based on a letter he received from the Christian Legal Centre
Alder Hey has today praised staff in the face of mass protests outside.
A spokesman said: ‘Last night the hospital experienced significant disruption, due to a large protest concerning one of our patients. We wish to pay tribute to our amazing staff, who worked tirelessly under extremely difficult conditions to manage the implications of this disruption.
‘Alder Hey is a special place with highly skilled staff who dedicate their lives to caring for and looking after thousands of sick and ill children every year.
‘Our priority will always be to protect and look after the welfare of all patients and staff and to continue to provide outstanding care to our patients and families, which we know is recognised by colleagues across the NHS and in the wider public beyond’.
Broadcasting from his son’s bedside, father Tom Evans said he was legally entitled to take Alfie from hospital – based on a letter he received from the Christian Legal Centre – adding ‘he is waiting for his flight out to Italy’.
Mr Evans said a jet was waiting at John Lennon airport and it is understood he plans to take his son to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital in Rome for diagnosis and possible treatment.
But he claimed that medics were blocking his son’s release and that a police officer told him he would be arrested for ‘assault’ if he tried.
Addressing supporters, Mr Evans said he and Alfie’s mother had their passports in their pockets and were ready to fly to wherever would help to treat Alfie.
‘Alfie won’t be going anywhere unfortunately but there’s tomorrow,’ he said.
‘There’s about six police officers outside his bedroom. I have asked them to reduce it to two and respect our privacy.
‘They said until they get told they can stand down they can’t. I’ve told them don’t go in the room, respect my decisions and that’s what they’ve done.
‘YOU ARE LEGALLY ENTITLED TO REMOVE ALFIE FROM ALDER HEY’: CHRISTIAN LEGAL CENTRE’S LETTER TO TODDLER’S PARENTS
A letter from the Christian Legal Centre to Alfie’s father, stating that the parents were legally entitled to remove the youngster from the Alder Hey’s care
You have asked me to clarify whether it would be legal for you to remove your son Alfie from Alder Hey Hospital without the Hospital’s consent. In Alfie’s situation, that would be practical with the support of a team of medical professionals with the necessary life support equipment.
Subject to that, I can confirm that such a removal would be lawful under English law.
Alfie is only in hospital because you, his parents, voluntarily sought its healthcare services. Alfie retains the right to self-discharge from hospital. He is not imprisoned there. Because of his minority, it is for you, as his parents, to make a decision to self-discharge or to stay at hospital.
The effect of the declaratory orders made by Mr Justice Hayden in the High Court is to make it lawful for Alder Hey to withdraw his artificial ventilation treatment, and to protect Alder Hey and its staff from legal liability for that step. It is not the intention or effect of the order to circumvent Alfie’s personal liberty or your parental rights. It remains lawful for an alternative team of medical professionals, with your parental consent, to provide such medical treatment to Alfie as they professionally deem to be appropriate.
As you know, today Mr Justice Hayden made a further order scheduling the withdrawal of ventilation from Alfie [REDACTED]. The legal position may arguably become more complicated if someone within the High Court’s jurisdiction continues to provide ventilation after that point. However, there is no doubt that, until that point in time, it remains entirely lawful to provide ventilation to Alfie; and that can be done by a medical service provider of your choice.
For these reasons, as a matter of law it is your right to come to Alder Hey Hospital with a team of medical professionals with their own life-support equipment, and move Alfie to such other place you consider is best for him. You do not need any permission from Alder Hey Hospital or the Court to do so.
Hope this clarifies the matter.
Christian Legal Centre
‘He’s content, he’s comfortable and he’s waiting for his flight out to Italy, so let’s get Alfie out.’
It is understood that the family’s lawyers were last night in mediation with Alder Hey Hospital.
Speaking to protesters earlier in the night, Mr Evans said: ‘There’s no order that says Alfie can’t leave.
‘In reality I could walk upstairs, pick Alfie up right now and take him out the hospital.
‘I was told by a police officer if I take Alfie I was going to get arrested for assault.
‘If I pick Alfie up, with legal responsibilities and parental responsibilities, I’m getting told that I’m going to get done for assaulting my son. Where’s that real?
Addressing supporters outside Alder Hey, Mr Evans said: ‘Legally we can go. The doctors are doing their best now to stop us from doing that
Mr Evans said that he and Alfie’s mother have ‘removed all duty of care from the doctors here’ and that he was told he would be arrested for ‘assault’ if he tried to remove his son from Alder Hey
Cars were honking their horns in support of the two-year-old and his parents who say the hospital is stopping them from taking Alfie
Protesters gathered under the banner of ‘Alfie’s Army’ to demand Alder Hey Hospital release the tragic toddler into the care of his parents
Supporters chanted ‘release Alfie Evans’ and ‘we shall not be moved’ at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool
‘The truth is of the matter is me and Kate hold full responsibility and we can take him to our transportation van with full equipment, with doctors who have got full duty of care, and they’re not allowing it.
‘We’re hoping now that my solicitor is going to get us out. We might not leave because apparently the floor’s on lockdown.
‘But at the end of the day what we know is Alfie is stable, Alfie is ready to go, we’ve got full responsibility, we’ve removed all duty of care from the doctors here.
‘There’s not one doctor in this hospital now who has any say over my son, apart from the air ambulance.’
As he made his way to the hospital after the finished speaking, he made his way back inside the hospital and urged supporters to stay outside and protest peacefully.
Supporters chanted ‘release Alfie Evans’ and ‘we shall not be moved’ at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, where the youngster is being kept.
A spokesman for Merseyside Police said: ‘We can confirm that officers are at to monitor a peaceful protest’
The protest comes after a judge ruled Alfie’s treatment should be withdrawn
The Alfies Army Official Facebook page said the family’s lawyers were currently in mediation with Alder Hey Hospital.
Mr Evans earlier claimed in a video on Facebook that medics ‘phoned the police to murder my son… Alder Hey phoned the police to stop me taking my son out of the hospital’.
Merseyside Police Assistant Chief Constable Serena Kennedy: ‘We were present at Alder Hey Hospital while the hospital and family of Alfie Evans sought clarity from Mr Justice Hayden in relation to the treatment of Alfie.
‘Although peaceful, the large protest that took place did cause significant traffic disruption and inconvenience for other people trying to access the hospital.
‘I want to remind people to please consider other hospital users, as these delays could have caused serious problems for staff and patients alike.
‘We fully understand what a sensitive and emotional time this is for everyone involved and I would also therefore like to pass on our appreciation for the way in which Alfie’s family were later able to speak to the crowd and offer assurance and calm.’
In a video he posted to Facebook, Mr Evans claimed he held the legal right to remove Alfie from the hospital’s care.
He said: ‘Alder Hey have phoned the police to stop me from taking my son out of the hospital.
‘This is my son. Look at my healthy, healthy young boy who is undiagnosed, who is certainly not dying.’
During the nearly two-and-a-half minute clip he also encouraged people to come to the hospital to stand outside and ‘tell them to release our son’ in a ‘quiet protest’.
He added: ‘They have phoned the police over a child… Look how innocent the boy is, look at him, he lies there eagerly waiting for his trip home.
‘How can this come to this?’
Merseyside Police said officers were called to the hospital to ‘supervise a peaceful protest’
Christian Legal Centre has written to the parents to tell them they would be legally entitled to remove Alfie from Alder Hey Hospital’s care
In a video he posted to Facebook, Mr Evans claims he is legally entitled to remove Alfie from the hospital’s care
Bosses at Alder Hay Hospital in Liverpool took the case back to the High Court to ask the judge to determine when Alfie’s treatment should officially be withdrawn, after the Court of Appeal last month ruled it should be stopped rather than the boy be taken to hospital abroad
The parents said the fear their toddler’s life could end ‘within hours’ in a High Court case that echoes the tragic death of Charlie Gard.
Alfie has a rare degenerative brain disease which doctors have been unable to diagnose and is being kept alive on a ventilator.
Bosses at Alder Hay Hospital in Liverpool took the case back to the High Court to ask the judge to determine when Alfie’s treatment should officially be withdrawn, after the Court of Appeal last month ruled it should be stopped rather than the boy be taken to hospital abroad.
Presiding, Mr Justice Hayden told the court Alfie’s brain was ‘almost entirely water’ and added what the parents see in the footage ‘is not the same as what others might see’.
He agreed to review the footage before making any decision but did not change his mind about treatment being withdrawn. He then set a date for Alfie’s life support to be turned off, which cannot be published for legal reasons.
The judge said he was not able to give a medical opinion and was watching them out of ‘courtesy and kindness’.
Mr Justice Hayden said: ‘Lady Justice King in the Court of Appeal on 8 March circumscribed my role today as to help broker if possible or to determine if necessary the terms of the end of life plan and the date for withdrawal of artificial ventilation.
‘Every word of this case so far has been in the public domain but this aspect seems to me to now be so exquisitely personal and private that the public interest must give way on these matters to Alfie’s privacy.’
The family’s barrister Paul Diamond asked Mr Justice Hayden to look at the videos in a last minute bid to get a new independent assessment of Alfie’s condition.
Mr Diamond said: ‘Mr Evans says the last three weeks, the reducing of drug intake, he thinks his son is showing signs of cognitive improvement.
‘We do think there’s scope for negotiation. Tom Evans is entirely shocked by this progressive consultation, they thought as reasonable people it should be explored, this offer by the Italian hospital. They think there’s undue haste being taken on this for some reasons they don’t understand.’
Mr Justice Hayden watched the videos in private out of what he described as ‘courtesy and kindness’.
He said: ‘Alfie is a little boy with a neuro-degenerative condition and that condition has degenerated his brain and it is irreparable. All doctors here, in Germany and in Italy agreed on this – the brain can not regenerate itself.
‘I ask myself if I were in a bed in a hospital in that condition, would I want video of myself in the public domain? And I dont have any difficulty answering that in the negative, so I find myself wondering why it’s right for Alfie.
‘I’m not in any way qualified to gainsay a medical opinion. It would be entirely inappropriate to do so. But out of courtesy and, I hope, kindness to Tom and Kate, I will watch it.’
The videos were said to show Alfie’s mother Kate putting chocolate in his mouth from the tip of her finger, which Mr Michael Mylonas QC, representing Alder Hey, said was ‘dangerous’.
‘We are concerned that one of the videos shows Kate providing Alfie with food by mouth. There’s a significant risk of aspiration’, he said.
Mr Mylonas said Alfie now had ‘bilateral pneumonia’ which may be as a result of trying to give Alfie the ‘taste stimulus’.
The High Court ruled Alfie Evans will be taken off life support on a date and location that cannot be reported.
Earlier today Mr Justice Hayden warned that Evans ‘may come to regret’ posting the videos he filmed of his son on the hospital ward.
Mr Justice Hayden said it would not be possible for Alfie’s parents to make ‘further applications’.
He said he was concerned that images of the little boy were continuing to be posted online.
‘It is impossible to escape images of Alfie on the internet,’ said the judge.
‘Alfie’s brain as we know is almost entirely water. He has no say on whether these photos are taken.’
Mr Justice Hayden said he was concerned that the images were ‘intrusive’ and suggested that in the ‘fullness of time’ Alfie’s family might regret their publication.
Alfie’s parents were not at the hearing, which is continuing.
Last week bosses at Alder Hey said they had been unable to reach agreement with Alfie’s parents about exactly when treatment should stop.
WHAT THE DOCTORS SAY ABOUT ALFIE’S MOVEMENTS
Professor Maria Fitzgerald, from the Developmental Neurobiology at University College London, said: ‘It is possible for touching the skin to trigger reflex movements even when an individual has no perception or ‘sense’ of the touch.
‘This is because reflexes are mediated at the level of the spinal cord which can continue to operate even if the brain itself is no longer functional.’
Dr Joe Brierley, Consultant in Paediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: ‘The rooting reflex described is one of what are called ‘primitive reflexes.’
‘It is present when babies are born (at term) and helps the newborn baby feed and bond with its mother/others.
‘It makes the baby turn its head towards anything that strokes its cheek or mouth, and as the baby then moves its head in decreasing movements it looks to be searching for what has stimulated it.
‘Trained child-health assessment can easily distinguish between these two types movements (voluntary and involuntary) and parents and families can then be helped to understand that this is not a voluntary conscious movement but a reflex action to a stimulus.’
They said they would ask the judge for ‘guidance’ .
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 had 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.
Court of Appeal judges upheld Mr Justice Hayden’s ruling.
Supreme Court justices and European Court of Human Rights judges have refused to intervene.
The couple have complained that ‘the state’ is wrongly interfering with their parental choice.
They want to move Alfie to a hospital in Rome or Germany.
His parents confirmed on the Alfie’s Army Official Facebook page last night that today’s hearing would go ahead despite their plea for an extra week for lawyers to consider the paperwork.
Mr Evans said today ‘could be the day [Alfie] is executed’ and his family is still determined to take his son to Germany or Italy for treatment.
The case has drawn interventions from the Pope and the White House has been contacted by North West England MEP Steven Woolfe, who is supporting Alfie’s family.
In a video recorded today, Mr Woolfe said he had met Alfie and seen him respond positively to other members of his family.
He said: ‘When I went to see them [Alfie’s parents] I saw Alfie. He’s a wonderful little boy. When his uncle walked in the room and started talking you could see reactions in his eyes and his face and his arms and that has pushed me on more to try to fight for him.’
Last week, at a meeting with hospital officials and Mr Woolfe, Alfie’s father Tom Evans presented what he believed was fresh evidence showing his son’s condition was improving.
Mr Evans understood that a decision on ending life support was on hold for the hospital to reconsider the case, including ‘alternative options’, such as taking Alfie to a hospital at The Vatican for treatment.
But Miss James said they had been given them ‘false hope’ as, within an hour of the meeting, Alder Hey’s lawyers were contacting the High Court to arrange for a judge to rule on a date for withdrawing life support.
Speaking about the meeting in his video, Mr Woolfe added: ‘We have sent a further letter to the hospital clarifying our version of the meeting and I have sent a further letter to the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt asking him to intervene. I wrote to the European MEPs asking them to support this and many of them are starting to do so. Yesterday I was communicating with the Christian community in the US seeking further support.
‘There have been 250,000-plus signatures seeking a petition to help give Alfie the opportunity of a second opinion in Italy.
‘There is ample evidence that Tom and Kate and their family can show that Alfie should be given a chance and everything should be given to them to help them save their son.
‘Alder Hay should listen. They are in the business of caring; they’re in the business of looking after the health of people and children and if they believe that they should at least look beyond the narrow ramifications of the legal interests and costs of the hospital and simply say ‘perhaps we may have been wrong’, just as some doctors were wrong in the Aysha King case, and allow Alfie and his family the chance of a second opinion in Italy and give that family the option.
‘I beg them to give them the option of saving Alfie rather than pursuing this case today to end his life in the next few days.
‘We’re doing what we can, we are here today and I hope you all hope and pray that we get a positive result.’
Pope Francis has spoken about Alfie and his family’s struggle to keep the youngster alive
In a statement, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust said there was no choice after attempts to reach an agreement with Alfie’s parents broke down.
‘We understand that this is an incredibly difficult time for Alfie’s family and we continue to support them in every way we can,’ said a spokesman.
‘Despite reports, at no point has a date for withdrawal of treatment for Alfie been agreed. After a long and difficult legal process, the courts have ruled that Alfie’s condition is irreversible and untreatable and that continued active treatment is not in his best interests.
‘We always aim to reach agreement with parents about the most appropriate palliative care plan for their child but sadly, in this case, we have not been able to do this.
‘Consequently, we must return to the High Court, as we are legally required to do, for guidance about a date on which to withdraw treatment from Alfie..’
Mr Woolfe said Alfie’s family believed his physical condition had improved since the court order to end his treatment was issued six weeks ago.
‘He’s showing more activity, smiling, lifting his eyelids,’ he said. ‘I’m not a doctor but I’ve seen him myself, you can see physical signs of life. He’s a beautiful little boy.
‘They believe there are possible physical changes with Alfie to enable him to be safely transported to Italy and an Air Ambulance that would carry him that would satisfy Alder Hey’s concerns.’
Pope Francis tweeted his support, saying: ‘It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard.’