Did the State or Alfie Evans’ Parents Know Best?

May 10, 2018

It’s a good thing we broke from British rule. Apparently, courts in Great Britain think that hospitals can hold children hostage from their parents. The parents of Alfie Evans lost their right to make medical decisions for their son.

Alfie Evans died a couple weeks ago after being in a semi-vegetative state for a year due to an undiagnosed disease. The hospital decided to take Alfie off life-support and even take away his feeding tube. When his parents objected, the hospital didn’t care—they were going to do it anyways. A hospital in Italy volunteered to provide treatment for Alfie, but the Britain hospital refused to release Alfie to his parents’ care. Alfie’s parents took the issue to court, but the court ruled that the hospital was right, and Alfie’s parents were barred from taking him abroad.

Not everyone with power in Britain agrees with the decision. Lord David Alton declared: “I am not alone in believing that when British law can displace the rights of parents then British law must be changed.”

The parents of Alfie Evans just wanted the freedom to take their own son to Italy for treatment. They just wanted to give their son a fighting chance to stay alive. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently, it is. The court ruled it was not in the “best interests of the child” to go abroad for treatment. Why does the court get to decide what is in the best interests of the child, instead of his parents? Claire Fenton-Glynn, a legal scholar at the University of Cambridge, explains that in Great Britain, if parents and doctors can’t agree on medical care, “it is up to the court to decide—on a purely objective basis—what is in the best interest of the child.”

It makes me laugh to think that a court could ever be purely objective! Some would argue the parents cannot make a rational, objective decision because they are too emotional—they’re too close to the situation to be “objective” about it. However, that is exactly why the parents are the best ones to decide the fate of their child—they’re the closest to him and the situation. He’s their own flesh and blood! To them, he’s not just another patient in the hospital; he’s not just another subject in the court. Their emotions for their child is an asset, not a liability: parents’ emotions help them be fierce protectors of their children.

It’s true that “outsiders” such as the court may not have any emotional attachment, but that does not necessarily make them more rational and objective. The staff at the hospital and the judges at the court are human too and cannot be “purely objective” and all-knowing. They’ll likely be emotional too—but their emotions might be pride and arrogance, thinking they know best for the child over and above the parents. They might be motivated by money and power. Who knows? The point is, no one in this situation can be completely emotion-free and all-knowing. If we must choose, wouldn’t we rather have the loving emotions of the parents guiding this decision? Instead the court got to decide, and it decided it was in Alfie’s best interest to die.

Even the British Medical Association believes parents are usually the best ones to decide what’s best: “…in most cases [parents] are best placed to judge their young child’s interests and decide about serious treatment.” It states parents are not entitled to decide “inappropriate treatment” for their child though. Yet it was certainly not “inappropriate treatment” to give Alfie nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube or allow his parents to take him to Italy for treatment!

At least nothing like this could ever happen in America, right? Well, something similar happened here in 2016. At a hospital in Los Angeles, two-year old Israel Stinson was taken off life support, even though his parents objected. The judge ruled in favor of the hospital. There’s an important difference though between this case and Britain’s: the parents could freely take their son elsewhere. His parents had taken him to a Guatemalan hospital that was willing to keep him on breathing and feeding tubes.

Even so, the fact a judge ruled in favor of the hospital’s wishes instead of the parents’ shows American courts might further copy Britain’s. As many parents can tell you, the government has taken away their rights before—it might not be long until parents also lose the right to make medical decisions for their children. American parents might be pushed to the sidelines and be forced to stand helplessly by as the hospital and courts decide that death is “best” for their children.

I don’t think Americans will put up with that though. Surely, we’ll never let our government become that authoritarian…or will we? If government starts to take more control of the family and takes away parents’ ability to protect their children, will you stand up in courage and resist such tyranny?

We fought to be free from Britain. We must resist becoming Britain again. We must stay lovers of liberty so that we have the liberty to do what’s in the best interest of our children.

In Service,

Texas Citizens Coalition

Gary Gates started the non-profit Texas Citizens Coalition because he has a passion for individual liberty and preserving the Constitution, and it’s a fight he’s engaged in with every facet of his life. He believes a coalition is needed because it takes all of us being actively involved to move our state and country forward. We as citizens must stay informed because We the People are in charge and must hold government accountable. Gary desires to provide Texas citizens a free resource to get useful information about state government from a conservative perspective.
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