British toddler at centre of legal battle dies

Terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans died yesterday after doctors withdrew his life support last Monday following a protracted legal battle. A prayer vigil in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City, on Thursday night for Alfie Evans, who died yesterday. Po
A prayer vigil in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City, on Thursday night for Alfie Evans, who died yesterday. Pope Francis tweeted: "I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie."PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans died yesterday after doctors withdrew his life support last Monday following a protracted legal battle. A prayer vigil in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City, on Thursday night for Alfie Evans, who died yesterday. Po
Terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans died yesterday after doctors withdrew his life support last Monday following a protracted legal battle. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans died yesterday after doctors withdrew his life support last Monday following a protracted legal battle. A prayer vigil in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City, on Thursday night for Alfie Evans, who died yesterday. Po
Terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans died yesterday after doctors withdrew his life support last Monday following a protracted legal battle. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old British toddler whose grave illness drew international attention, died yesterday, his family said.

Alfie had a rare, degenerative disease and had been in a semi-vegetative state for more than a year.

After a series of court cases, doctors at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool removed his life support last Monday, against his parents' wishes. Alfie confounded expectations by continuing to breathe unaided for days, but died in the early hours of yesterday, his parents said.

"My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02.30, absolutely heartbroken," the boy's father Tom Evans wrote on Facebook.

"Our baby boy grew his wings tonight... Thank you everyone for all your support," his mother Kate James wrote.

Medical experts in Britain had agreed that more treatment for Alfie would be futile, but his parents wanted to take him to Rome, where the Vatican's Bambino Gesu hospital had offered to care for him.

A British court rejected an appeal by the parents last Wednesday to take their son to Italy.

Pope Francis, who intervened several times in the case, tweeted yesterday: "I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie. Today I pray especially for his parents, as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace."

Alfie's case touched hearts around the world and prompted vigils in Italy and Poland.

It is the latest in a series of high-profile battles between parents of ill children and the British authorities. British law states that parents "cannot demand a particular treatment to be continued where the burdens of the treatment clearly outweigh the benefits for the child". If an agreement cannot be reached between the parents and healthcare professionals, the matter will be brought to a court.

The most recent example was that of Charlie Gard, who was born in August 2016 with a rare form of mitochondrial disease. He died last year after doctors withdrew his life-support treatment.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 29, 2018, with the headline 'British toddler at centre of legal battle dies'. Print Edition | Subscribe