(LONDON) — The father of a terminally-ill British baby who has been denied further treatment had a private audience with Pope Francis on Tuesday, during which he asked for help to save the child.
In a tweet by an Italian newspaper, Pope Francis is reported to have said in the meeting with Alfie Evans’ father, Tom Evans, that the “only master of life is God. Our duty is to do everything to protect life.”
Alfie, who is just under 2 years old, has a rare neurological condition that will continue to progress. Doctors have not been able to diagnose it.
The boy’s parents, Evans and Kate James, have appealed on numerous occasions against legal decisions preventing the baby from being taken to Italy for treatment.
After hearings in London and Liverpool in February, a judge ruled that doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where the baby is being treated, could end life support against the wishes of his parents.
The judge, Justice Hayden, endorsed a plan submitted by doctors for withdrawing his treatment.
The Pope has previously called for the two sides to work together toward a solution to help Alfie, in the wake of protests about the decision.
The Papal audience comes two days after the Court of Appeal in London refused to overturn a decision that would allow Alfie to leave Alder Hey, where he has been treated since December 2016, and receive treatment in Rome.
Alfie’s parents have lost legal battles in the Court of Appeal and the High Court, and their appeals have also been rejected by the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
Alfie has been compared to baby Charlie Gard, who died last year in London at the age of 11 months old from a terminal mitochondrial disorder after doctors ended treatment that he had been receiving since birth.
His parents also fought a legal battle to allow Charlie to receive experimental treatment abroad, but were defeated in the courts. The case garnered widespread international attention and statements of support by both Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump.
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