Jim Gallagher is a British journalist and author based in London who has worked for secular and religious press in U.K. and U.S.A. He is a co-founder and trustee of pro-life charity Humanae Vitae Projects. His biographies have been published in several languages. They include ‘Padre Pio: The Pierced Priest’, ‘Maurice Lewis: Child of Mary, Defender of the Weakest’, ‘Mother Teresa’, ‘Pope John Paul II: The Road to Sainthood’, ‘A Woman’s Work: Chiara Lubich & The Focolare Movement’. He is also the author of two books exposing miscarriages of justice (i.e. wrongful criminal conviction). ‘Why Me? One Woman’s Fight For Justice & Dignity’, and ‘The Crime That Never Happened: A Tale Of Three Pro-Lifers’ Quest For Justice’.
He answers ZENIT’s questions about Alfie Evans and his parents’ fight. For the moment, no direct news from the Evanses about Alfie’s farewell celebration.
Pope Francis intervened on behalf of little Alfie but his personal envoy Mrs. Mariella Enoc was not received by the hospital authorities in Liverpool. Was it, do you think, a case of “ideological” distance?
Pope Francis personally asked Dr. Enoc to fly to England to “whatever possible – and impossible!” to bring Alfie to Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome so as to provide him at least proper palliative care. Dr. Enoc met Alfie’s parents at Alder Hey Hospital but the hospital authorities refused to meet her. I must say, it was noticeable that the Pope’s compassionate action on behalf of the Evanses brought to the surface once again the age-old anti-Catholicism of the liberal Establishment and media. The attitude was that “This is a foreign power trying to interfere in our affairs”. Some affirmed that Alfie and parents were not Catholics. Poor Thomas, a 21-year old plasterer in his family’s building firm, had to reiterate before the assembled media – and again in the presence of the Holy Father, “I am a baptized Catholic. My son is a baptized Catholic”. (Kate is Anglican.)
Alfie Evans was placed under what the NHS calls a ‘death care pathway’. What exactly is this?
This was a supposed ‘care pathway’ for terminally-ill cancer patients that was developed in the late 1990s by Royal Liverpool University Hospital. It soon came to be applied to all patients deemed to be near death. Hospitals were even given cash incentives by Government to reach targets for the number of patients dying on this Liverpool Care Pathway. Basically, it allows doctors to decide that a patient is days, or hours, away from death and at that stage remove or cease all treatment. “Treatment” in their terms includes oxygen, food, and water! The starving and dehydrated patient becomes unable even to ask for help or care. Thus the doctor’s decision that he/she is near death becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ethical groups, concerned healthcare workers, legal experts and some in the media have been highlighting the inhumanity and the injustice of this practice throughout the 2000s. Finally, in July 2013, the Government’s Department of Health announced that the policy would be phased out, to be replaced with an individual approach for each patient approaching death. In effect, the Liverpool Care Pathway was just re-branded and has continued to be applied in many parts of the country. Today many elderly people are afraid to be admitted to hospital or even hospices for fear that they will not come out alive. The case of Alfie Evans confirms that the Liverpool Care Pathway is still here and still as lethal. Ordinary patients refer to it as the “Liverpool Deathway”.
A doctor, Patrick Pullicino, wrote in The Daily Mail that this policy ‘kills’ some 130,000 elderly people each year in the United Kingdom. What does he say exactly?
Professor Patrick Pullicino, Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Kent, says that almost a third, some 29 percent, or 130,000 patients, who die in a hospital or otherwise under NHS care each year, have been on the Liverpool Care Pathway. It has become, he says, an “assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway” and so can be properly described as euthanasia of the elderly. He refers to the shortage of hospital beds as one pressure on overworked doctors. In one case Pullicino himself intervened. He is a consultant neurologist for East Kent Hospitals. Returning to work one Monday he found that a 71-year-old patient suffering from pneumonia and epilepsy had been put on the Liverpool Care Pathway – by a locum doctor working a weekend shift. The patient had become unresponsive, and his family was upset as they had not agreed to him being placed on the LCP. Professor Pullicino said that “despite significant resistance” from the hospital, he removed the patient from the Liverpool Care Pathway. Four weeks later the patient- recovered from his pneumonia and with his seizures under control- was discharged home to his family.
Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool was involved in a scandal in the 1990s when organs (and fetuses) were removed without the consent of parents. In both of these cases is it a case of denial of parental authority that has taken hold?
They were found to have been harvesting organs from deceased – and from live children during surgery (thymus glands, for example) without parental consent. And they were caught with over 400 fetuses. It was all part of a scandal wherein they were illegally selling human tissue. This behavior was recently exposed in the United States on the part of Planned Parenthood abortuaries. But here in England, at Alder Hey Hospital, it was within our celebrated National Health Service! To my mind, it reveals how far medicine has become removed from its noble roots and the Hippocratic Oath. It is a constant complaint here in U.K. that in so many hospitals the doctors and processors are increasingly arrogant and talk down to patients. “Doctor knows best” syndrome. This was evident in their attitude to Thomas and Kate. In the case of the organ removal and trafficking and keeping of the dead unborn babies, it revealed the complete rule of Big Brother NHS. It seemed to betray an attitude that said: “the children now belong to us; you parents and guardians have only subsidiary rights if any.” This was certainly the case with their treatment of Alfie. Why should they deprive the parents of their right to have Alfie home to live his last days (and probably die) – or to do that in a hospice where Alfie and all the family could be comfortable and still under medical supervision? Instead, once they had decided that he must die, Alder Hey brought in the police to prevent relatives bringing in anything that Alfie (and Kate and Thomas) might need. The family was physically searched in case they tried to smuggle in water. That first night “off treatment” Thomas shared his own saliva with his little son in an attempt to keep him hydrated. In their vindictiveness, the hospital even removed the little sofa (divan) in Alfie’s room where Thomas or Kate could take a rest. They were forced to sleep on the floor like dogs. Yes, at present parental rights are very few.
What news of Thomas and Kate? One had the impression from Thomas’s last statement that an agreement had been reached with the hospital…
The last public statement of Thomas Evans gave the impression of a hostage reading out a message written by his captors. The language used was not typical of Thomas. And several phrases were almost identical to those found in the hospital’s statement. In any case, Thomas asked the members of “Alfie’s Army” to stand down and return to their homes. Alfie died 36 hours later (check this timing…). The little family was together in Alfie’s hospital room (not at home as the parents had hoped for). We have learned that Thomas administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to his son as he had done earlier in the week when the hospital removed Alfie’s ventilator, and before they finally relented and again gave him once again access to a little oxygen. Only this time Alfie’s lungs and heart did not respond to his father’s efforts to continue his life. And Kate and Thomas had to let Alfie return to Heaven. And we know that that is where he is because he was a baptized child below the age of reason. So far, there is no news of a public funeral. I imagine that Alder Hey Hospital would dread such an event. Has the hospital allowed the family to remove their little child’s corpse? Has it harvested any organs? Has it allowed an independent medical examiner to conduct an autopsy?