Amid a tense battle over medical care for gravely ill toddler Alfie Evans, hundreds of protestors crowded outside Alder Hey Children's Hospital this week in support of the child and his parents.
Evans, who is 23 months, suffers from an unidentified degenerative neurological condition, has been under continuous hospitalization since December 2016.
His parents wish for him to continue receiving care and to take him to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, but officials at Alder Hey have gone to court to argue that continuing treatment is not in his best interest, and that his life support should be switched off. Several judges have ruled in the hospital's favor.
Alfie’s case has garnered international attention, and drew hundreds of protesters to the Liverpool hospital on Thursday night. Local police said the protests were “peaceful,” although they did cause some inconvenience for traffic and others accessing the hospital, according to the BBC.
On Friday supporters again gathered outside of the hospital in solidarity with Alfie and his parents.
His parents, Kate James and Tom Evans, have been fighting to transfer their son to another hospital for further diagnosis and treatment. However, their attempts have been futile, losing cases in both the High Court and Court of Appeal, having their pleas also rejected by the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
In February, the court ruled that Alder Hey could legally stop treatment for Alfie, against his parent’s wishes.
Evans and James are now launching a new legal challenge, asking the Court of Appeal judges to continue life support and treatment for Alfie. The court officials posted their hearing for Monday, saying that a court judge has decided that Alfie could continue treatment, pending the hearing.
The High Court recently set a date to officially turn off life support for Alfie, although the details of the end of life plan are not public.
However, his parents said that they have an alternative plan. Since the court order would allegedly end when the hospital removes life support from Alfie, the parents believe they can take custody of Alfie and fly him to Rome to pursue alternative treatments.
James and Evans told the BBC that they had a private ambulance and jet on stand-by which would make this transfer possible.
“There’s no court order to say Alfie has to stay in this hospital right now,” said Evans.
“The truth behind the matter is that me and Kate hold full responsibility and we can take him to our transportation van with full equipment with the doctors who have got full duty of care,” he continued.
Alfie’s parents plan to fly him to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Pediatric hospital in Rome. However, Evans said on Friday that police officers have been posted to the Alder Hey hospital to ensure that Alfie is not removed by his parents.
Pope Francis recently tweeted about Alfie, saying it was his “sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard.”
Earlier this month, Alfie’s parents said that their son has recently shown signs of improvement, noting that he has grown “stronger and more responsive,” and could take breaths on his own. They also said he was stretching, coughing, swallowing, and yawning.