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Update, April 24, 11:55 AM: This story has been updated to include a contrasting statement put out by the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health in support of Alder Hey hospital.
UNITED KINGDOM, April 24, 2018 (LifeSIteNews) – A group of British doctors are condemning the treatment Alfie Evans has been receiving at Alder Hey children’s hospital.
The Medical Ethics Alliance has released a statement indicating that the Liverpool National Health Service facility has put Alfie on a “pathway towards death” and has brought the entire medical profession into “disrepute.”
“We are deeply concerned and outraged by the treatment and care offered to Alfie Evans,” the doctors wrote in a press release this morning.
Their statement comes less than 24 hours after Alfie had his ventilator removed against the wishes of parents Tom and Kate. Alfie continues to breathe on his own, confounding doctors' predictions. The parents are continuing the legal battle to have their son's care transferred to a hospital in Rome. A UK judge will make a decision this afternoon.
“Despite a viable alternative being available (namely transfer by air ambulance for further assessment to a specialist hospital in Rome), the hospital and doctors responsible for his care insists that he remains under their care and on a pathway towards death,” they continued.
“While he now has some oxygen and some fluid, this has taken huge effort to obtain for him. He is offered sedation although (we understand) this has not been given at present. Sedation (if given) would mean that he would develop respiratory failure and die even more quickly.”
“Actions such as these have now brought the Alder Hey Hospital to worldwide attention and by extension bring our whole profession into disrepute.”
Stating that “medical tyranny must stop”, the doctors demand that British authorities allow Alfie safe passage to Rome. They also demand an investigation into Alfie’s doctors’ conduct
“With respect we insist that with immediate effect the [General Medical Council] investigate the actions of doctors providing his care”.
The statement was signed by Dr Anthony Cole, Dr Thomas Ward, Dr Adrian Treloar, Dr Robert Hardie, and Dr Josephine Venn-Treloar.
The Medical Ethics Alliance invited other doctors to cosign their petition. They can do so by emailing [email protected].
In contrast, the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health published a statement in support of Alder Hey this morning, seemingly in response to the Medical Ethics Alliance condemning the hospital's “medical tyranny.”
Saying that they couldn’t comment on the “specifics of the case,” they nevertheless want to explain to the public why treatment is sometimes withdrawn from children.
“We can’t comment on the specifics of the case – only the medical team treating Alfie, and the legal team, will know the exact details and they are bound by patient confidentiality,” wrote the College’s president, Professor Russell Viner.
“However, we feel it is important for the public to know that decisions to withhold or withdraw treatment from a child are not made lightly,” he continued.
“In the UK we are fortunate to have a clear and compassionate framework to guide practice which includes three key sets of circumstances when withdrawing life-sustaining treatment may be considered. These are:
If treatment is unable or unlikely to result in the child living much longer
Where treatment may prolong life but will cause the child unacceptable pain and suffering
If an older child with a life limiting illness repeatedly makes it clear they do not want treatment and this decision is supported by their parents and doctors.”
Viner stated that the ideal is for doctors to work closely with parents to come to an agreement on care–or lack thereof.
“Decisions on whether to withdraw treatment from a child are unfortunately ones that need to be made frequently,” he wrote. “The model is always for doctors to work closely with parents to agree on the best course of action for the child. In the vast majority of cases an equal decision is made to withdraw treatment and it is rare that there is disagreement. The cases where this is a significant difference in view are the ones that grab the media headlines.”
In the case of Alfie Evans, his doctors disagreed with his parents to such an extent that they asked the courts for permission to end the child’s care.