A judge has ruled that terminally-ill Alfie Evans may be allowed home, but will not be allowed to go to Rome for further treatment.
Mr Justice Hayden described the 23-month-old at the centre of a life support battle as “courageous” and a “warrior”, but said the case had now reached its “final chapter”, he told a High Court hearing in Manchester.
He rejected claims by Alfie’s father, Tom Evans, 21, that his son was “significantly better” than first thought because he had now been breathing unaided for 20 hours after doctors first withdrew life support on Monday night at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.
Instead, the judge said the best Alfie’s parents could hope for was to “explore” the options of removing him from intensive care either to a ward, a hospice or his home.
But a doctor treating Alfie, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said that for Alfie to be allowed home would require a “sea change” in attitude from the child’s family, and they feared that in the “worst case” they would try to take the boy abroad.
Mr Justice Hayden ruled out his family’s wishes to take the child to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, following interventions from the Pope and the Italian authorities.
Alfie has been at the centre of a life or death treatment battle, with his parents, Mr Evans and Kate James, trying to block doctors from withdrawing life support in a sometimes acrimonious six-month dispute which has seen a series of court battles.
A “last-ditch appeal” in which the Italian Ambassador granted Alfie citizenship of Italy in order to take him to Rome for treatment failed on Monday.
And a late night court hearing heard by telephone by Mr Justice Hayden and lawyers for both sides confirmed his earlier decision permitting life support, helping Alfie to breathe, to be withdrawn.
During another three-hour hearing on Tuesday at the Family Division of the High Court sitting in Manchester, Paul Diamond, from the Christian Legal Centre representing the parents, suggested the alleged change in the position meant the court should reconsider its decision on allowing Alfie to travel abroad.
He handed the court a witness statement from Mr Evans in which he suggested his son’s health was “significantly better” than first thought since life support was withdrawn at 9.17pm last night, as he was continuing to live and breathe.
But Mr Justice Hayden said in his ruling: “The sad truth is that it is not.
“With little, indeed no hesitation, I reject that.
“The brain cannot regenerate itself and there is virtually nothing of his brain left.
“There is, in truth, with great respect to the efforts of Mr Diamond, no substance to this application, which represents, at least within the court process, the final chapter in the case of this extraordinary little boy.”
Instead the judge said Alfie’s continued life was a “shaft of light” and a “special opportunity” for his parents to spend time with him – not the time for more legal manoeuvres.
And he criticised the “malign hand” of one of the family’s advisers, law student Pavel Stroilov, who had, the court heard, been party to Mr Evans lodging a private prosecution of Alder Hey Hospital doctors, allegedly for murder.
The judge said, in fact, the hospital had provided “world class” care for the child.
The hospital’s doctors and independent medical experts say there is no cure and no hope for Alfie.
Following the court hearing, a hospital spokesman said: “Our top priority therefore remains in ensuring Alfie receives the care he deserves to ensure his comfort, dignity and privacy are maintained throughout. This includes working closely with Kate and Tom as they spend this precious time together with him.”
Medics say Alfie has a degenerative neurological condition destroying his brain, and it is in his best interests to withdraw life support.
But his parents have fought a long battle to ask the courts to allow them to take him abroad.
The dispute ended up in the courts, but the family have already lost a series of appeals in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights.
Alfie was born on May 9 2016, but suffered seizures and was taken to hospital in December that year.
He is currently being hydrated and given oxygen to stop him becoming distressed, the court heard.