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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Toddler dies after divisive legal challenge

Alfie Evans' rare condition lead to a divisive court case that drew international attention

Alfie Evans cuddles his mother Kate James at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, England. 
Alfie Evans cuddles his mother Kate James at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, England. 

Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old British toddler whose grave illness drew international attention, died early on Saturday, 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 on Monday, against his parents wishes.

He confounded expectations by continuing to breathe unaided for days, but died in the early hours of Saturday, 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.

The case had attracted international attention, with heated debate from both sides. Staff at the hospital treating Alfie were reportedly threatened after medical experts in Britain 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.

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

The case stirred strong feelings over whether judges, doctors or parents have the right to decide on a child’s life. Alfie’s parents were supported by Pope Francis, whom they visited earlier to week to ask for help, and Poland’s President Andrzej Duda.

“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 Pope tweeted on Saturday.

A statement released by Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool read: "All of us feel deeply for Alfie, Kate, Tom and his whole family and our thoughts are with them. This has been a devastating journey for them."

Alfie's case was the second such case to divide the British public this year. In January, a judge ruled that intensive care treatment could be withdrawn from Isaiah Haastrup, an 11-month-old boy with severe brain damage, despite his parents’ wishes for continued intervention. Isaiah died just weeks later.

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