The story of Alfie Evans in Britain shocked and captivated an international audience. His death on April 28 was tragic, leaving his parents and countless people across the globe heartbroken, including his devoted online advocates in “Alfie’s Army.”
Many things happened during his case. The medical details are complex, with Alfie perhaps suffering from a unique disease. While the details may be hard to follow, the controversy in Alfie’s care was very simple: Alfie’s medical care was forcibly removed from him because of his supposed quality of life.
Patients must always have the right to refuse unwanted burdensome medical treatment, but in Alfie’s case, he was unable to express his wishes. Normally his parents would speak for him, as they are in the best position to guard Alfie’s best interest. Instead, British courts usurped patient autonomy and parental rights to take away Alfie’s care to cause his death.
How a patient views their health is important, but it’s a subjective view. Sadly, many doctors, hospitals, academics, and government officials have come to believe that many forms of disability are so insufferable that a person is objectively better off dead. “I wouldn’t want to be hooked up to those machines” is quickly turning into, “You shouldn’t be hooked up to those machines.”
Theoretically there could have been good reasons for courts to take away Alfie from his parents. Alfie could have been older and communicated his wishes. Alfie’s parents could have been abusive or been keeping him alive for financial reasons. Alfie’s medical care could have been futile. Alfie could have been suffering. The reality is none of that occurred in this case. No evidence was presented before the courts that Alfie was physically suffering. Alfie was not brain dead.
The courts simply decided they knew better about what Alfie needed than his parents, and they decided he needed to die. This precedent should concern everyone: we may be next.
The sinister nature of a “quality of life” ethic is that those who believe people are better off dead feel morally justified in causing people to die. Removing care or giving people lethal doses of drugs is cheap, whereas caring for the sick and disabled can be very difficult. People have a habit of taking the easy route, sometimes even if it obviously harms other people. Now the easy route has a worldview that justifies forcing people to die as compassionate.
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