If you’re new to the saga of Alfie Evans, The Guardian has a solid primer with the details of this strange and sad case. In short, Evans is a child in the U.K. suffering from an undiagnosed neurogenerative disorder. He has been receiving treatment at Alder Hey Hospital since Nov. 2016 (about six months after he was born), but has gradually been losing brain function. The hospital has kept him alive for nearly two years, but he is now in a semi-vegetative state with very little brain activity. In December, against the wishes of Alfie’s parents, Alder Hey applied to withdraw ventilation, saying that ongoing treatment would be “unkind and inhumane.”
An intense legal battle ensued, with the High Court ruling in favor of the hospital in Feb. 2018. An Appeals Court upheld the decision in March, and both the U.K. Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights subsequently denied further appeals. In April, a judge wrote that “the connective pathways within the white matter of the brain which facilitate rudimentary sensation—hearing, touch, taste and sight, had been obliterated. They were no longer even identifiable on the MRI scan.”
In almost every case, parents and hospitals come to an agreement on these matters long before it reaches a legal stage, but Alfie’s parents continued to fight. The case gained national and then international attention, resulting in a large protest outside Alder Hey in which protesters abused hospital staff and even attempted to break into the hospital itself. Then, incredibly, Pope Francis chimed in on Twitter:
On Monday, the Italian government granted Alfie Evans citizenship, and the Roman hospital Bambino Gesu offered to treat the boy, even though Italian doctors agreed with the British diagnosis, and said the care would be palliative. Alfie's parents sought to transport him, but on Tuesday a High Court judge ruled out that course of action. He did open up the possibility of the child returning home, and in the meantime, on Monday night, Alfie was taken off ventilation at Alder Hey. As of this writing, he remains in Alder Hey and is breathing on his own.
Various conservative politicians and pundits in America have seized on the case as an example of all that's wrong with socialized medicine, and even to make bizarre points about gun rights:
There's a lot to digest here, but it will come as no surprise that the conservative faction seem to be deliberately misunderstanding the facts of the case, and engaging in ugly opportunism designed to push an agenda. Which brings us to Dr. Dominic Pimenta, a junior doctor and writer who took to Twitter to help illuminate the subject for those getting caught up in the political squabbles. He offered the clearest and most concise insight into the specific medical facts of the case, and he did it all from the court record. His thread is so good, and so necessary in this instance, that we're including it in its entirety here in the hope that it will put the grandstanding of American political figures in its proper context.