Public reaction to Alfie Evans case 'Understandable but ill-informed'

Abuse directed at medical staff treating terminally-ill Alfie Evans demonstrates a lack of understanding over legal process, an expert has said.

Laura Davidson, a mental capacity barrister at No5 Chambers, said there had been "appalling instances of misrepresentation" in cases dealing with the health and welfare of children.

Public reaction to Alfie Evans case 'Understandable but ill-informed'

Public reaction to Alfie Evans case 'Understandable but ill-informed'

There have been threats to prosecute doctors at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, where the 23-month-old is being treated.

Staff have also experienced "unprecedented personal abuse" as a result of the legal battle over Alfie's life-support treatment, the hospital said on Thursday.

Dr Davidson said: "In both the Charlie Gard case and that of Alfie Evans, hard-working staff doing very difficult jobs have been demonised, verbally abused and threatened."

She added: "Unfortunately, persistent unmeritorious litigation and understandable but ill-informed emotional reactions from some members of the public who do not seem to have read the clear and measured judgments only serve to keep family wounds raw."

Dr Davidson described calls for doctors to be prosecuted for murder as "astonishing" and representative of "a profound misunderstanding of both the law and the legal processes at work".

"Ultimately, the court is the final arbiter," she said.

Dr Daniel Sokol, a medical ethicist and barrister, said: "As the legal routes are blocked time and time again, the tactics of some sections of Alfie's Army are those of guerrilla warfare: threats, insults, and intimidation.

"The clinicians, the NHS, the Government and the judiciary are painted as the vile and heartless enemy. Facts and motives are twisted to suit the aim, which is to put unbearable pressure on the hospital and its clinicians, until they crack."

He described the approach as "ugly and distressing", adding: "There is a real risk that these guerrilla tactics will become the norm in 'best interest' cases involving children, which would be disastrous."

Professor Jonathan Montgomery, who specialises in health care law at University College London, said it was the role of judges to "cut through the clamour".

He said: "I am dismayed that the protesters and the threats to prosecute doctors at Alder Hey are distracting from the attempts of the parents, health professionals and the judges to focus on what is best for Alfie Evans.

"English law makes the best interests of the child the primary issue before the court. All the evidence needs to be tested.

"The parents have been able to explain their views, bring all the evidence before the judge and challenge the thinking of hospital staff who saw things differently, and this is the right and proper procedure."

He added: "There can be no doubt that Alfie's highly experienced medical team have done everything in their power to give him the best chance at life. They have been supporting his life for over a year.

"There can be no doubt either that Alfie's parents are devoted to him.

"The fact that this has led them to a different conclusion shows how difficult the case is."

Professor Montgomery said the court's role was to focus "on what the evidence actually shows" and test how evidence has been interpreted by the hospital and parents.

"That robust scrutiny means we can be assured that we have met our obligations to Alfie," he said.

"It also means that we owe it to Alfie to have the courage to do what is right for him now that the best course has been determined."