The bitter irony at the heart of the Alfie Evans case
LONDON, England, April 16, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Thomas Evans thinks he is fighting for his son, but legally speaking, he isn’t.
At the Court of Justice in Westminster on Monday, three lawyers made their cases before the three justices: Paul Diamond representing Thomas Evans and his family; Michael Mylonas, QC, for the Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust; and Sophia Roper, the counsel for Alfie’s official Guardian.
This means, legally speaking, that Mrs Roper, not Mr Diamond, is Alfie’s lawyer.
The battle to determine Alfie’s “best interests” concluded February 20. On that day, Mr Justice Hayden decided that Alfie’s “best interests” were not for him to remain alive on life support as long as possible but to be removed from his ventilator and receive palliative care from Alder Hey hospital.
Hayden based this decision on the “unanimous” medical opinion that Alfie had a “severe and progressive neurological condition” leading to the “almost total destruction of his brain.” He recalled one doctor’s opinion that the movements Alfie displays are due to seizures or are “spinal reflexes.” He also mentioned that none of the doctors had completely ruled out the possibility that Alfie might be in pain.
Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, fought Hayden’s decision in the Appeal Court, the Supreme Court, and the European Court of Human Rights, losing every time. Every court upheld Hayden’s determination that Alfie’s “best interests” -- extubation, palliative care, remaining at Alder Hey -- were opposed to his parents’ wishes.
After Alfie’s parents’ were defeated at the European Court of Human Rights, Alder Hey approached the courts to determine a date and time for Alfie’s ventilator to be removed. On April 11, Mr Justice Hayden specified a time and date for Alfie’s extubation.
Thomas Evans instructed his lawyer to launch another appeal. It was heard Monday morning, and the subsequent discussion lasted for most of the afternoon. Mr Diamond argued on two grounds: first, that the court was limited in its jurisdiction over parental rights, and second, that Alfie was being unlawfully detained. For this reason, Diamond cited the ancient English legal principle of Habeas Corpus.
The Justices were unconvinced that Alfie was being unlawfully detained, principally because the February 20 decision specified that Alfie’s care should continue at Alder Hey. The letter of legal advice that Tom Evans brought with him to the hospital on April 12, when he tried to remove Alfie, was not written by a lawyer, as was previously believed, and had no basis in law. There was a moment of high drama when the justices focused not on the arguments brought before them but on the hapless, apparently unqualified, author of this letter.
Diamond also tried to argue that as a citizen of the European Union, Alfie had the right to travel to another country in the Union for medical treatment. He used as an example the Irish women who travel out of the Irish republic to have abortions. Even though abortion goes against the Irish Constitution, the European Union fully supports the women’s choice to do that.
However, as the justices pointed out, it was not Alfie who was arguing that he travel abroad for medical treatment, but his father. The representative for Alfie’s guardian -- and therefore Alfie -- said that Alfie’s guardian was not complaining that Alfie is being unlawfully detained.
And that is where the bitter irony occurs. Mr Diamond tried to argue that Alfie’s parents’ parental rights outweighed Alfie’s “best interests.” Although the crowds calling themselves Alfie’s Army would strenuously disagree that there was any deviation between Alfie’s interests and his parents’ interests, this very division had been suggested by Alfie’s parents’ lawyer.
Again, the fight over what “Alfie’s best interests” are was lost and won on February 20. Today’s battle came down to whether or not Alfie’s parents’ rights over him could trump those “best interests.” As Diamond argued, “the rights of the child have limitations.”
However, the justices decided that parents do not have “unfettered rights” over their children. Lord Justice Davis stated that Alfie’s parents had the right to put forward what they thought were Alfie’s “best interests,” and the courts have not agreed with them. The justices cited the Charlie Gard decision, the Children’s Act of 1989, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to stress that the “best interests” of the child are paramount and that a child must have a voice independent from those of his parents.
Meanwhile, several courts have ruled, in the words of Lady Justice King,”it is not in (Alfie’s) best interests to keep him alive.”
Thus, a dispute that in Liverpool on Saturday was described as Alfie and his parents against Alder Hey was being fought in London on Monday as Alder Hey and Alfie against his parents.