June 27th, 2019


Why aren't libs outraged about what happened to Alfie Evans?

Ramesh Ponnuru

By Ramesh Ponnuru

Published April 30,2018

Why aren't libs outraged about what happened to Alfie Evans?

What the British government did to to a baby and his family is almost unbelievable. The government determined that Alfie Evans, afflicted by a rare neurodegenerative disorder, was in so poor a quality of life that no efforts were to be made to keep him alive.

He died on Apr. 28.

Alfie Evans was taken off ventilation but continued, surprising the doctors, to breathe. He also was deprived of water and food. His parents wanted him take him to Italy, where a hospital was willing to treat him. The British government said no, and had police stationed to keep the boy from being rescued. It was, after all, in his best interest to die.

There are end-of-life cases that raise genuinely complicated issues. The same course of medical treatment might be obligatory in one set of circumstances, permissible in another, and cruel in a third. There are gray areas and judgment calls.

This was not one of those cases. There was no allegation that providing the baby with nutrition and hydration, or treatment generally, would cause him suffering --- or that extending his life would prolong his suffering, since there was no indication that he was suffering.

The family was not asking the British government to pay for expensive treatments. They just wanted the freedom to take their boy to people who will try to keep him alive rather than cause his death.

The considerations that moved the government were that the baby's doctors considered it unlikely that he would ever attain a high level of cognitive functioning or be able to survive on his own, and likely that his condition would eventually kill him. The courts decided that Alfie Evans therefore derived no benefit from continuing to live.

It really is this simple: The government decided that it is the baby's best interest to die, and tried to ensure that he died expeditiously. It overrided parental rights in the process.

The family and its supporters assert, with justified outrage, that it is barbaric to sentence anyone to death by starvation for the crime of being dependent on others, and that parents have a right to make medical decisions for their children. The courts treated the parents as though they were in the grip of irrational, if understandable, emotions. They were merely loving their baby. It is the British state that appeared to be reacting in an irrational and nearly incomprehensible, way.

The Guardian reports that the case has become a "rallying cry for social conservatives" in the United States. So it has. My question is: Why aren't liberals horrified by the British government's behavior too? Shouldn't everyone be?

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Ramesh Ponnuru has covered national politics and public policy for 18 years. He is an author and Bloomberg View columnist.