People! I’m getting a bit exhausted watching the words “brain dead” and “terminal” being tossed about by CATHOLICS! Geez! At this point, you might as well just euthanize us all now because we’re all headed for that plot in the ground, too.
First, Alfie Evans is not “brain-dead,” although he might be considered so by some. I believe the worst diagnosis so far is “semi-vegetative.” We’re apparently not going to wait for fully vegetative anymore. You must remember the increasing number of supposedly “brain dead” patients who woke up in the middle of having their organs harvested, their intubation unhooked, or just waking up out of the blue. Clearly, science has not nailed this down, and not even an EEG is a good indicator of what’s really going on. Regardless of this, Alfie doesn’t fit the bill of brain dead nor has anyone actually diagnosed him as such.
Alfie definitely does have a neurodegenerative disease. Nobody denies that, but so do people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, etc. While all will likely die from these diseases, they are only terminal when the body stops metabolizing. My dad suffered from Alzheimer’s for years, but was only considered terminal the last week of his life. Interestingly enough, if he had lived ninety days in hospice, he would have no longer been considered terminal. Go figure. This is why the Church has always said that food, water, medicine, and other medical procedures meant to treat secondary issues should be continued for patients with these diseases. We do not euthanize them. We give them palliative care. We can’t currently cure them, but we shouldn’t do things to hasten their death. What is palliative care? It’s care meant to relieve stress and pain in the body.
The one treatment most people are going to point to as “extraordinary” care is intubation. Quite frankly, it can sometimes be extraordinary care, but it can also be ordinary care depending on the person’s illness, accident, etc. Let’s say a person, like Christopher Reeve, has been paralyzed and cannot breathe. He is still very mentally with it, he’s still metabolizing, but he needs help breathing to take the stress off his body (because not breathing is rather stressful). Denying him that treatment would very definitely hasten his death. It’s ordinary care for his situation which, at that point, is not terminal. This is really where Alfie is now. For him, that would have been palliative care. It was simply taking the stress of his body. The kid is metabolizing just fine. He’s looks to be a tall little chunk for his age, and his renal and heart functions are great. Might this not be the case when his disease progresses? Absolutely, but we don’t kill people with, say, ALS just because they need help with oxygen. What’s the difference? Alfie can’t speak for himself and his parents are not allowed to speak for him either. He could very well get to a point where his organs start shutting down, he can no longer metabolize the nutrition, hydration, and medication, and he goes into heart failure or renal failure. Oxygen would be totally futile at that point. We, however, as Catholics, don’t base treatment on what might be one day. For all we know, Alfie’s brain could suddenly stop getting worse. Yes, this is where he would be the rest of his life, but what we do know is that removing oxygen puts much more stress on his little body, and doing so was meant to hasten his death. It’s important to note they removed his nutrition and hydration until he didn’t die. After a while of him not dying, they started looking bad.
Now, Bambino Gesu has offered palliative care to Alfie until which time it is no longer conducive to his health. They have said they DO NOT intend on discontinuing the ventilator, nutrition, or hydration. What they DO intend is making him as comfortable as possible for the rest of his life. Nobody can seem to tell me why this is a problem. I believe the judge said it could be detrimental to his health because of possible seizures. You know what’s more detrimental to his heath, Mr. Justice Hayden? Euthanasia. It’s going to be harmful to someone’s health one hundred percent of the time. Just let Alfie go.
Folks, you need to learn this because you don’t want to be trying to figure all of this out when you are under THE worst stress of your lives and, since life will be in the balance, you want to get this right.