It has been some time since we at Rational Catholic have been able to use our blog. There have been babies born and other life changes for many of us since this blog first started. However, the particular case of the toddler Alfie Evans requires us to respond.
Many of us at Rational Catholic are the parents of children with disabilities. Some of us have disabilities ourselves. We pledge ourselves to the proclamation of what is true, in faith and in accord with reason. End of life issues are always difficult, even moreso when a child is the person whose death approaches. Here is our response to this incredibly painful and difficult case.
We believe that, while there has been no firm diagnosis for the specific cause for Alfie’s condition, the ballpark diagnosis of a progressive neurodegenerative condition that will be fatal is likely to be correct. We believe that Alfie has a terminal illness, even though it is not clear why this happened or the specific mechanism by which his brain is being destroyed. We believe that this is likely a condition for which, at this point, medical science has no possible treatment or cure. I would encourage people to read the expert testimony to get a more clear picture of the clinical issues in play.
However, we believe that the actions of this hospital and the judges, particularly the decisions to remove the parents’ right to determine the appropriate treatment for their child, are unconscionable and evil. There is a difference between a discussion of care that is futile, and hastening the death of a toddler for the reasoning that he is not dying quickly enough and his life has been determined to be not worth living. A failure to die on a timeline that conserves the most resources for the health care system is not an offense that should be remedied by passive euthanasia.
We believe that this child’s condition is as it has been represented: terminal. We also believe that this child has a right to every single moment in his mother’s embrace, every loving word from his father’s mouth. It beggars belief that this needs to be said, but while he approaches death he has a right to non invasive supportive care like oxygen, and to food and water. I cannot believe that it has to be stated that a dying toddler should not be starved. This is not a case where the child’s body can no longer take in nutrition, such that feeding could actually increase suffering. That scenario can and does exist, but it is not the case here.
There have been many discussions of Alfie’s state being “semi vegetative” and statements that there is virtually nothing left of his brain. However, it is a profound error to believe that a life has value only insofar as it meets certain arbitrary standards. A human person has value because of who he is, not because of what he is able to do. Age, IQ, race, gender, disabilities, location, stage of development, and so many other qualities are *accidents.*. They do not make someone a human being of value, or not. They do not make someone’s life worth living, or not. They do not change the fundamental dignity of the human person, nor do they change his vocation in life: to know God, love God, and serve God in this life and to be happy with Him forever in the next. The powers of the soul are not dependent upon the function of the brain. Alfie has the same value as the scientist working to cure cancer, the nun praying without ceasing, the embryo in the first moments of life, the professor scribbling away at the masterpiece he will never finish, and the cashier at the gas station. Every one of those people is equally made in the image and likeness of God. This day, Alfie Evans is a better Christian than I am. He is a better Christian than you are. And the lives of the little ones such as Alfie are precious in the sight of God.
What we do for the least of these, our brothers and sisters, determines, who we are. Christ hungers in His Son, Alfie. Christ thirsts. And He does this with parents who have faced fierce and irrational hatred for their unwillingness to bend to the pagan demands that they submit to their child’s earlier death as being somehow in his best interest. Prayers for Alfie and his family, and for a society that says that death is better for a child than life.