Last night, doctors at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool turned off life support for  Alfie  Evans, a two-year old boy who was in a semi-vegetative condition. The decision was taken late in the evening, even though the Italian Prime Minister had granted the child Italian citizenship a few hours earlier, in order to facilitate his transfer to the Bambino Gesu children’s hospital in Rome.
Doctors at Alder Hey had said that Alfie’s brain and heart were too damaged to survive more than a few minutes without respiratory assistance. But, against all expectations, eleven hours later Alfie is still breathing! “Alfie’s unexpected’ physical resistance to what the doctors claimed to be lethal respiratory failure represents a’ falsification’ – according to Popper – of evidence of Alfie’s complete loss of functionality of his central nervous system. The child’s brainstem functions are in fact intact enough to allow independent breathing (…). “Even his heart is still beating,” explained Don Roberto Colombo, Professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Rome’s Sacred Heart catholic university.
He finds it surprising that such resistance did not encourage doctors to give him back his respiratory assistance and considers that this decision “leaves him medically and ethically perplexed“. He sees it as “thanatological relentlessness“, and “ideological obstinacy with no reasonable clinical or ethical basis to end a patient’s life“.
When English doctors speak of “unreasonable obstinacy“, Don Roberto Colombo speaks of “anti-curative obstinacy“. He even adds that “it is the opposite of authentic ‘palliative care’, which consists in taking care of the incurable patient until the last moment of his life“.
The hospital finally gave him hydration after six hours, then oxygen after eleven hours. The plane prepared for Alfie’s transfer from Liverpool to Rome is ready, waiting for the administrative authorizations, and so are the medical teams at Bambino Gesu.
Il Messaggero (24/04/2018)