LONDON (AFP, REUTERS) - Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old British toddler whose grave illness drew international attention, died early on Saturday (April 28), his father said in a Facebook post.
“Our baby grew his wings tonight at 2:30am (9.30am Saturday Singapore time). We are heartbroken. Thank you everyone for all your support,” Kate James and Thomas Evans said in a statement on Facebook.
Mr Evans said: “My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 0230. Absolutely heartbroken. I love you my guy.”
The parents had fought to take their son, who had a degenerative medical condition, from a hospital in Liverpool in northwest England to a clinic in Rome but lost a final court appeal on Wednesday.
Doctors had already removed life support on Monday after the parents lost a previous appeal to keep him alive despite doctors’ recommendations.
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 on Wednesday to take their son to Italy.
Pope Francis said later on Saturday he was “deeply moved” by the news that Alfie had died.
“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,” the pontiff wrote on his Twitter account.
Pope Francis intervened several times in the case that touched hearts around the world and prompted vigils in Italy and Poland.
Earlier this week the pontiff wrote on Twitter that he hoped the parents’ "desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted”. “The only master of life, from the beginning to its natural end, is God, and our duty is to do everything to protect life,” he said.
Thomas Evans had also met with the pope in the Vatican last week and asked him to “save our son”.
Italy had granted citizenship to the toddler in the hope of facilitating his transfer to the Bamino Gesu hospital in Rome.
The father on Thursday had asked supporters, who have staged a series of vigils outside the hospital where the baby was being treated, to go home.
He said he was grateful for all the support but asked people “to return back to your everyday lives and allow myself, Kate and Alder Hey to form a relationship, build a bridge and walk across it”.
“We also wish to thank Alder Hey staff at every level for their dignity and professionalism during what must be an incredibly difficult time for them too,” he added.
Medical staff have been subjected to severe online abuse and police officers have had to be deployed outside the hospital because of angry protests as the case progressed.
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 agreement cannot be reached between the parents and the healthcare professionals, “a court should be asked to make a declaration about whether the provision of life-sustaining treatment would benefit the child”.
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, one week short of his first birthday, after doctors withdrew life support treatment.
Gard’s parents fought a five-month legal battle for him to be taken to the United States for experimental treatment.
The parents of Ashya King defied professionals in 2014 when they snatched their cancer-stricken son from a British hospital and took him to Prague for proton beam therapy.
King, now eight years old, has since been declared clear of the disease.