The desperate parents of a seriously ill 20-month-old boy are in court on Thursday to argue their son should continue to get life-support treatment.
Tom Evans and Kate James, both 20 and from Liverpool, want to take their son Alfie abroad for treatment.
But doctors in the UK say continuing life-support treatment is not in the child’s best interests.
Alfie, who was born on May 9 2016, is in a “semi-vegetative state” and has a degenerative neurological condition doctors have not definitively diagnosed.
Despite mediation between the parents and specialists caring for Alfie at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, a two-day hearing at the city’s family court will begin on Thursday to decide the child’s fate.
It follows a preliminary hearing at the High Court in London last year, when Mr Justice Hayden said everyone wanted what was best for Alfie, but ruled he would make a decision if agreement could not be reached after hearing from both sides.
Alfie’s parents hope that specialists at the Bambino Gesu Paediatric Hospital in Rome will be able to pinpoint what is wrong with their child.
Mr Evans told the Daily Mirror: “At the moment we are not willing to let him die.
“But if we have turned all the stones over and don’t wake our child up…we will wait for him to deteriorate and let him die in his own way.
“We can take him home and still care for him but knowing he will die in our home, knowing we have tried everything.”
He added that he believes Alfie “is not dying”, and that his son’s condition is improving.
Celebrities including Rebekah Vardy, Jamie Lomas and Dennis Wise have all visited Alfie in hospital.
Vardy tweeted: “Today Alfie squeezed my finger every time I tickled his little hand. I watched him with my own eyes responding to his dad’s touch. He is sucking a dummy and spitting it out, he is using his senses. Please help Alfie and his family to save him.”
Wise echoed her words, calling Alfie a “beautiful boy” and tweeting: “Please help this family.”
A Justgiving page set up to raise money for the youngster’s treatment abroad has raised more than £55,000.
In July last year 11-month-old Charlie Gard passed away after a series of highly-emotive legal battles over his treatment.
Just seven days shy of his first birthday, the terminally-ill baby boy had been born with mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare genetic disease which left him brain damaged and unable to breathe or move his limbs unaided.
Charlie had been treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where doctors said he was in pain and that further treatment would only increase his suffering. They sought permission from the courts to switch off his life support and allow him to die peacefully.
His parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates resisted, arguing that an experimental treatment available in the US could extend and improve Charlie’s life.
The case gained international attention after Charlie’s parents received support from Pope Francis, Donald Trump and some members of the US Congress.
But Gard and Yates eventually abandoned a five-month legal battle and withdrew a petition to take him abroad after concluding he had deteriorated “to the point of no return”.