Pope Francis has called for prayers for Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old suffering from a rare degenerative neurological condition.
The baby was struck down by a mystery illness in December 2016 and has spent over a year in a coma in hospital.
In February a high court judge ruled that Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where Evans is a patient, could switch off his life support after doctors said continuing it would be “unkind, unfair and inhumane”. A date to end the baby’s life support was set by London’s High Court last week but details were not made public for legal reasons.
On Monday his parents Tom Evans and Kate James lost the court appeal for their son to be moved to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù children’s hospital in Rome. The family say Bambino Gesù would give the baby a tracheotomy and a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) to allow him to be fed through his stomach, but Alder Hey says that the Rome hospital is in agreement that the child’s treatment should be palliative.
The couple has already lost cases in the High Court and Court of Appeal and has had their case rejected by the Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights.
The Pope was speaking to crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square on Sunday for his weekly Regina Coeli address. Alfie Evans was among the causes the Pope requested prayers for, saying: “I entrust to your prayer persons such as Vincent Lambert in France, little Alfie Evans in England, and others in several countries who live, sometimes for a long time, in a state of grave illness, assisted medically for their primary needs."
Francis acknowledged the “delicate”, “painful” and “complex” situations surrounding these cases and asked that the sick are always treated “with great respect for life…with the harmonious contribution of the family, of doctors and of other health workers”.
The Pope has previously tweeted his support for the family of Alfie Evans, saying earlier this month he hopes “everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard. I am praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved."
Protesters calling themselves ‘Alfie’s Army’ have set up placards outside Alder Hey and have, according to a statement from the hospital, been making noise that has “unfortunately affected our patients”. The hospital has asked for noise levels to be “kept to a minimum”.
On Sunday the pontiff also prayed for Vincent Lambert, a 42-year-old Frenchman who has been disabled for 10 years. His hospital recently ordered the removal of his food and water, against the wishes of his parents and the advice of other doctors.
PICTURE: Tom Evans and Kate James, the parents of Alfie Evans, have lost the latest stage of a court appeal to continue his life-support treatment.