Just as with the case of Charlie Gard last year, the saga of a nearly two-year-old boy named Alfie Evans has shocked the conscience of the world. Alfie is suffering from an unknown degenerative brain disease and has been judged by his doctors to be beyond saving. An Italian hospital has offered to admit the boy to continue his care, but this option has been blocked by the British court system. As of this writing, Alfie is being taken home to die, even though he has survived for several days off of life support, unexpectedly as it turns out.

End of life decisions

In the United States, end of life decisions are generally reserved for individuals or, in the case of minor children, their parents or guardians.

In Great Britain, where health care for most is dispensed by the government-run National Health Service, such decisions are reserved for the state. If the doctors decide that you or your child is to die, no recourse is available. As in the case of Charlie Gard, Alfie’s parents are being refused permission to take the boy outside the country for further treatment. No such thing as a second opinion exists in the British universal health care system.

Alfie’s situation has created quite a row on both sides of the Atlantic, with protests outside the hospital in Liverpool and angry editorials in the United States. The specter of an uncaring bureaucracy condemning a small child to die has created a lot of anger as well as observations that this is what one gets when health care decisions are reserved to the government.

Push-back from the Independent

Oddly, the plan to put Alfie to death (though “with dignity”) has its defenders, both in the UK Independent. Sean O’Grady, an editor with the newspaper, claims that the outrage over what is being done to the little boy is a plot by American conservatives to undermine the National Health Service.

O’Grady claims, falsely, that Alfie would not receive the level of care in America that he is getting in Great Britain. To be sure, an American boy who suffered from the same condition would have more options than Alfie is being afforded. O’Grady only refers to “problems” the NHS system is facing, But the government system that has governed British health care is on the verge of collapse according to the Wall Street Journal.

Samantha Batt-Rawden, who describes herself as both a doctor and a mother, describes herself as “angry,” though not at what is being done to Alfie but at the protestors who are apparently playing on the fear of the boy’s parents. Presumably, if people would just shut up Alfie’s parents would be more accepting of their son’s impending death at the hands of the NHS machinery.

In short, the life and death or a little boy matter little next to the necessity of keeping the British National Health Service unmolested from criticism. Some of the staff of the hospital where Alfie is being held a prisoner are complaining of the “abuse” they are getting from people who are outraged at what is being done to the little boy.

One tried to find some sympathy, though the doctors and nurses on the receiving end of the outrage are secure in the knowledge that they are going to live for the foreseeable future, a privilege not being afforded to Alfie Evans.

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