Intended for healthcare professionals


Alfie Evans and Charlie Gard—should the law change?

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 01 May 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k1891
Opinion: Alfie Evans and guerrilla warfare
  1. Dominic Wilkinson, professor1 2,
  2. Julian Savulescu, professor1
  1. 1Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to: D Wilkinson dominic.wilkinson{at}

Professionals and families need to work together

In the early hours of 28 April 2018, 23 month old Alfie Evans died in Liverpool’s Alder Hey hospital after a prolonged dispute over his medical care.1 Alfie had a severe neurodegenerative disorder and had been ventilated in intensive care for much of the preceding 16 months. His parents wanted life support to continue, but Alfie’s doctors believed that this would be futile; in late February, the High Court ruled that life sustaining treatment was not in Alfie’s interests. Subsequently, a series of (unsuccessful) appeals were heard by the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, and European Court of Human Rights.1

The final stages of the dispute about treatment for Alfie were accompanied by intense national and international scrutiny. Many drew parallels with the case of Charlie Gard, less than a year earlier.2 International commentators and politicians were critical of the UK health system and judiciary and its perceived interference in parental decision making. At the height of …

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