The story of Alfie Evans and the fight by his parents, Tom and Kate, against the National Health Service and the UK courts brings to mind the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin:
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
I admit that I don’t know what it was like to live in England after World War 1, or the kind of medical care available to the average man at that period in history. I do know, perhaps only because I have been able to evaluate what has since happened there and indeed throughout the western civilized world, that the expansion of government has eliminated individual liberty and power as it provides “temporary safety”.
The National Health Service in England, according to Wikipedia, is the publicly funded national healthcare system for England and one of the four National Health Services for each constituent country of the United Kingdom. It is the largest single-payer healthcare system in the world. Primarily funded through the general taxation system and overseen by the Department of Health, NHS England provides healthcare to all legal English residents, with most services free at the point of use. Some services, such as emergency treatment and treatment of infectious diseases are free for everyone, including visitors.
The NHS has had problems meeting objectives in the past few years, and there have been stories of patients dying due to neglect or mistreatment, or being denied treatment entirely. In the end, unless a patient is able to afford private health care, he is at the mercy of the State. The State decides what care will be provided/denied, when that care will be provided, and the patients and their families have little say.
I imagine that the average patient with average complaints is fairly happy about the care they receive. It is those who are the outliers – the very young, the very old, those who are “defective” – who are often left out of this “happy families” scenario. I’m sure that a man or woman who previously struggled financially to pay for dental or eye care, or had little or no insurance when they needed routine surgery, would be delighted to receive these services “free”. But then, we all know that nothing worthwhile is ever “free”.
In the last season of Downton Abbey, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley, wages a fight against the takeover of the local village hospital by the larger medical establishment. In one scene, as she is accused of wanting to keep her personal power over the hospital, she discusses the primary reason for her objections:
For years, I’ve watched government take control of our lives, and their argument is always the same. Fewer costs, greater efficiency. But the result is the same too. Less control by the people, more control by the state, until the individuals and their wishes count for nothing. That is what I consider my duty to resist.
She ends the scene by saying that “Your great-grandchildren won’t thank you!”
Indeed, I think that many people in Britain believe that the National Health Service is wonderful, but there are also many who see the truth of Violet’s prediction.
Now, about Alfie. What possible justification can there be for denying the child access to care by another qualified hospital in another country when that care will cost the NHS nothing? What right does the State have to prevent the parents of this child from seeking qualified care for their son as they see fit? After all, the parents aren’t suggesting some strange treatment by witch doctors, but care by a fine hospital in Rome that is staffed by well-qualified doctors and nurses.
The country of Italy has made the child a citizen in order to facilitate his care in their country, and a medical transport stands ready in England to take him there.
The response by the hospital where Alfie is a virtual prisoner was to remove his ventilator, saying that he would die within minutes, and when he didn’t die, his food was withdrawn. This is not palliative care; it is murder. The courts have ruled that this treatment is in the “best interests of the child”. I just read that the hospital resumed feeding after 36 hours. Without all of the public attention to this situation, I wonder if they would have otherwise?
Police are stationed in the hospital to prevent his parents from taking him home or anywhere else, as they consider them a “flight risk”.
According to the Associated Press, Alfie’s case has drawn international attention, with officials in largely Catholic Poland and Italy implicitly criticizing Britain’s courts and state-run National Health Service.
Polish President Andrzej Duda tweeted Wednesday that “Alfie Evans must be saved!”
“His brave little body has proved again that the miracle of life can be stronger than death,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Perhaps all that’s needed is some goodwill on the part of decision makers. Alfie, we pray for you and your recovery!”
Pope Francis has met Alfie’s father and made appeals for the boy’s parents’ wishes to be heeded, saying only God can decide who dies.
Emotions have run high over the case, with a band of supporters known as “Alfie’s Army” protesting regularly outside the hospital, at times trying to storm the entrance. The hospital increased its security, and police said they were monitoring social media posts about the case for malicious communications.
Yes, that’s right. Those who criticize the NHS and the State are being “monitored”, and local law enforcement has threatened to ‘act upon’ individuals commenting about the situation on social media.
Yes, indeed. Those of us in the United States who, unlike any other country, are protected by a Bill of Rights, must protect those rights with our lives, if necessary, or we will lose them. God gave us those rights, and we must not trade them for comfort or safety.