London (AFP) – The family of terminally ill British toddler Alfie Evans prepared for a new court appeal on Tuesday to ask doctors not to discontinue life support following a plea from Pope Francis.
His parents want to take the 23-month-old, who suffers from a rare degenerative neurological condition, to Rome for treatment but have lost several legal bids so far.
Italy on Monday said it was granting citizenship to the toddler and Pope Francis issued an appeal on Twitter that the parents’ “desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted”.
But High Court judge Anthony Hayden on Monday rejected an appeal by the parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, for a delay in order to give them time to present a new challenge.
The ruling allowed doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, northwest England, to withdraw treatment.
The boy’s father told reporters on Tuesday that the doctors had withdrawn life support on Monday but his son was still alive.
The Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) paediatric hospital in Rome, which is administered by the Vatican, has said a specially-equipped plane from the Italian defence ministry is on standby to fly to Britain to pick up the boy if he is released.
Evans met Pope Francis in the Vatican last Wednesday after several statements of support made by the pope.
“Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted,” the pope said on Twitter.
At an audience last week, he told attendees in reference to the case: “I want to reiterate and strongly confirm that the only master of life, from the beginning to its natural end, is God, and our duty is to do everything to protect life”.
Hundreds of people have protested outside the Liverpool hospital in support of the father’s plea for the boy to be discharged.
On Monday, a large group of protesters attempted to storm the entrance before being blocked by police.