LONDON (AP) — The father of terminally ill toddler Alfie Evans said Thursday that he plans to meet doctors to discuss taking his son home from a British hospital.
The 23-month-old boy has an incurable degenerative neurological condition, and doctors say further treatment is futile and he should be allowed to die. His parents want to take him to a hospital in Italy, where he would be kept on life support.
The British hospital treating Alfie withdrew his life support Monday after a series of court rulings sided with the doctors and blocked further medical treatment. On Wednesday the Court of Appeal rejected a new bid by the parents to take Alfie to the Vatican’s hospital in Rome.
Alfie’s father, Thomas Evans, said the boy had shown “no deterioration,” three days after being taken off a ventilator.
He said the family planned to meet doctors at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hospital to discuss whether Alfie could go home.
Doctors say it is hard to estimate how long Alfie will live without life support, but that there is no chance he will get better.
Evans said that if he was not allowed to take Alfie home, he would resume his fight in court.
The months-long legal battle between Alfie’s parents, backed by a Christian pressure group, and his doctors has drawn international attention, with officials in largely Catholic Poland and Italy implicitly criticizing Britain’s courts and state-run National Health Service.
Polish President Andrzej Duda tweeted Wednesday that “Alfie Evans must be saved,” and Pope Francis has appealed for the boy’s parents’ wishes to be heeded, saying only God can decide who dies.
Italy has a military plane on standby to transport Alfie to Rome if the courts allow it, and has granted the boy Italian citizenship to facilitate his arrival and transport.
Alfie’s plight has been front-page news for weeks in Italy, where a group of supporters launched a nine-day novena cycle of prayer in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square Wednesday to show solidarity with Alfie, his parents and the pope’s message of support. There was another vigil outside the British embassy in Warsaw, Poland.
Emotions have run high over the case, with a band of supporters known as “Alfie’s Army” protesting regularly outside the hospital, at times trying to storm the entrance.
The hospital has beefed up its security, and police say they are monitoring social media posts about the case for malicious communications.
Alder Hey hospital chairman David Henshaw and chief executive Louise Shepherd said staff had been subjected to a “barrage of highly abusive and threatening language and behavior.”
“We have endured attacks upon our motivation, our professionalism and our ethics. It has been a very difficult time,” they said in a statement. “Having to carry on our usual day-to-day work in a hospital that has required a significant police presence just to keep our patients, staff and visitors safe is completely unacceptable.”