Alfie’s Death

The death of baby Alfie Evans last Saturday in England is a tragedy for the world. It is, above all else, a tragedy for his family. We, as a caring Christian community, should not cease to pray for this young man and his parents.

Just as we have prayed for recovery and peace for little Alfie, who suffered so much in his very short life, so too must we pray for his parents and indeed for all involved in the care of sick children.

There are so many issues at play in the events of Alfie’s life. From the question of the rights of parents over the rights of the state (which, in many ways, was sadly the central debate) to questions of palliative care and end-of-life issues to matters of international citizenship to deeper, more existential questions like the suffering of innocents, we cannot forget that this fierce little drama involved more than just concepts, as important as they are, but people, especially a very young mother and father, and a suffering toddler.

We can debate, and we should, after knowing fully the Church’s teachings on end-of-life issues. We can see in this issue the growing secularization of Europe in general and the United Kingdom in particular. We can read the reports of the prayer vigils and the protests in Rome, in Poland and in Liverpool.

We can question the wisdom of a national health plan and a single-payer system that takes so much authority away from the parents of a child.

But no one should question the motives of the doctors and health care workers who, from all reports, did everything they could to help little Alfie.

Pope Francis, who had met with the baby’s father, personally appealed for prayers for the child and said he would support treatment of the child at the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital in Rome.

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has defended of the actions of the hospital, saying that everything “humanly possible” was done to help Alfie. Even doctors from Bambino Gesu said a positive outcome probably was not likely.

Above all else, we need to stop and mourn the death of a little boy who suffered so very much in his life and pray for the consolation of a young couple who wanted to do everything and anything to preserve the life of their little boy.

One thought on “Alfie’s Death

  1. The pen of Charles Dickens could not have written the tale with any more dramatic irony. The great British author is said to have been paid by the word, but this tale can be told mercifully in but four meager chapters and an epilogue, though the good reader may possibly care to add a chapter of his or her own afterward.

    In Chapter One, a boy-child is new-born to privilege and position and wealth, celebrated by those romantics across the planet awestruck by fairytale princes and princesses, fawned over by those so poor in spirit that they live to grovel before their betters, gushed over by those so enchanted by this perfect Wee Louie and his doting mum and dad. How wonderful! How marvelous! How simply lovely that the British royals present another heir to their awesome throne! Even citizens of our American Republic, they who should call to mind those revered Revolutionary heroes who had waged bitter and bloody war until we as a nation could jettison precisely this monarchy at Yorktown, are enthralled by the royal tyke.

    But alas, in Chapter Two, we meet Little Alfie Evans who lives just down a London road. Little Alfie is a lesser child, imperfect, entitled to neither privilege nor position nor wealth, not even, as some would have it, entitled to life itself. Little Alfie’s imperfection is a nuisance that needs to be eliminated by a health system all-powerful. His life is clearly of value to none of the throngs or the media enchanted by the perfect boy-child Wee Louie.

    Chapter Three finds Little Alfie’s perfidious partisans pleading on his behalf but dismissed or simply ignored by those blessed with greater wisdom, not to mention authority. Parliament, the voice and conscience of the British electorate, has legislated. The learned legal minds of the high courts, bedecked in their somber robes and powdered wigs, simply uphold the laws of the realm. Both override the desperate love of the child’s parents. They’re only a poor benighted mum and dad who don’t understand the inconvenience of their love, its worthlessness to the common good. The law is the law, and that law guarantees the supremacy of the realm over the rights of a parent, at least if that parent is not a William or a Kate. And if there be any doubt about the legal niceties, there is adequate case law, as the parents of Little Charlie Gard can attest.

    Mercifully, in the last chapter, Little Alfie has the good grace to die, a mere five days following the heralded birth of Wee Louie. Finally good riddance. Hopefully, for those who dote upon princes and princesses, the tale of the fulfilled demise of Little Alfie has been naught but a mere distraction, a temporary downer, not to dull the shine of Wee Louie’s crown.

    As an epilogue, we may note that somewhere in this Dickensian narrative is a heroic Scrooge, upholding the current truth in Britain that the deaths of the disabled are for the best, helping to “decrease the surplus population” as a wise Ebenezer would put it. We need royals and more royals because the lives of the celebrated elite are worth so much more than those of idle commoners. And given the state of British culture today, the plug must be pulled on any more Tiny Tim Cratchits, their lives worthless and a burden upon society, i. e. the British health care system and the British conscience. And surely let us not give Tiny Tim the opportunity to speak an anathema, “God bless us, every one.”