Waste Land: Britain’s Culture of Death
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land…
April 23 is St. George’s Day, the national feast day of England.
On April 23, 2018 three events occurred.
Ealing Council in west London became the first English Local Authority to implement a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) for the area around a local abortion facility. It was claimed that this order was necessary “to protect women from distress and intimidation.”
Abortion providers and various pro-abortion groups had lobbied local politicians convincing them of the need for what are declared as “safe zones,” or by pro-life groups known as “censorship zones.” The politicians had been told of fanatical “groups” of pro-lifers accosting women as they entered the facility, forcing them to look at explicit pictures of abortions while calling them names—all influenced by tactics imported from the United States. The conclusion of the politicians was that the very act of praying outside an abortion facility was an act of intimidation.
The building that houses the abortion facility at Ealing has a curious history. Before the trade practiced there now, in the earlier part of the twentieth century, it was called Chapel House, an Anglo-Catholic hostel under the patronage of the Guild of St. Raphael, with its purpose being as a “Christian Home of Spiritual Healing.” On its wall to this day, just below the sign offering its latest services, there is a relief featuring the Archangel Michael.
For the local politicians the fact that for 23 years a peaceful vigil of prayer had taken place at the abortion facility in Ealing was disregarded. The fact also that during that time there had been no arrests or prosecutions of anyone involved in the vigil was also ignored. The concepts of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech were overridden. Those entering the abortion center generally spurned the pro-life groups who had been part of the vigil, however, not infrequently the vigil met expectant mothers only too willing to be helped emotionally and practically to continue with their pregnancy.
Following this first PSPO, however, other English councils, with encouragement from various abortion providers and their advocates, are now considering following Ealing’s lead. There is the prospect that soon it will be illegal in the UK to pray and offer help outside an abortion facility.
The second event on April 23 to take place in the UK was a royal birth. At a private hospital, also in west London, at 11:01 BST, a 22-man team of medics ensured the safe birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s third child. The media rejoicing was immediate. Enthusiastic front pages vied with each other in their coverage of the event and pictures of the new-born as editors tried to outdo each other in finding ways to “welcome” the latest royal baby and congratulate his parents.
The third event took place later that day, some distance to the north of where the royal birth had happened. At a public hospital in Liverpool, the life support for a 23 month-old sick child, Alfie Evans, was switched off despite his parents’ pleas for their son’s treatment to continue.
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Alfie Evans was born May 9, 2016 in Liverpool, England, to Tom Evans and Kate James. In December of that year he was admitted to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, after seizures; he was to remain there for 12 months. Then, on December 11, 2017, the hospital petitioned England’s High Court to withdraw ventilation, claiming further treatment would not be in the child’s “best interests.”
By February 2018, lawyers acting for the hospital told the High Court further treatment was “unkind and inhumane.” They said Alfie was in a “semi-vegetative state” because of an unknown neurological condition. On February 20, a High Court judge authorized the removal of the child’s life support.
On March 1, Alfie’s parents launched a legal appeal of the High Court ruling. On March 6, their appeal was dismissed. On March 8, the parents appealed to the Supreme Court. Days later they learned that the Supreme Court refused to consider any appeal from the parents. On March 28, the European Court of Human Rights also refused to hear the case.
On April 4, the Wednesday of Easter Week, Pope Francis appealed on Twitter for Alfie’s life. On April 16, the parents mounted a “wrongful detention” appeal against the hospital. On the same day the Court of Appeal ruled against them. Two days later, Tom Evans, a Catholic, like his son, travelled to Rome to meet the pope.
On April 23, Alfie was granted Italian citizenship. This was to facilitate his transfer to an Italian hospital. That same day Pope Francis once more asked that the suffering of Alfie’s parents “ be heard.” An air ambulance military helicopter was sent from Italy, equipped to take the sick child to the suitably named Bambino Gesù Hospital. His parents were keen to make the journey with him.
On the same day, Alder Hey Hospital switch off all life support for Alfie.
On April 24, a further appeal by the boy’s now frantic parents was dismissed by the High Court. The High Court judge insisted the child could not be taken to Rome. The next day, Alfie’s parents once more appealed to the Court of Appeal against the High Court ruling, but all grounds of appeal were refused. The child had to die in England.
On April 28, after having lived for a further five days, Alfie Evans died at 2:30 BST in Alder Hey Hospital.
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In one week, three events concluded. A pregnancy ended in rejoicing. A local government consultation process ended with the right to peaceful vigil outside an abortion facility denied: the pregnancies there must be terminated, whether the women going there did so voluntarily or under pressure, feeling they had no alternative. The third event raises questions. Why would the medical establishment, backed to the hilt by the legal establishment, fight tooth and nail to keep Alfie Evans in England so that he could die in that Liverpool hospital? Why could he not go to Rome, yes to die, but with a greater level of support and encouragement, both medical and spiritual, available for him and his emotionally exhausted parents?
In recent cases, the media have been largely supportive of those who wish to travel abroad to end their lives. Many in the liberal media see the right to die where and when you will as a “human right,” something in which the state should not interfere; they are also vociferous in their support of those who move from one jurisdiction to another, from Ireland to England, for example, to have an abortion. This week, the same media were largely silent or dismissive of the case of Alfie Evans. British media reports, with a few exceptions, focused not on the child’s rights to receive the medical treatment on offer, or on his right to die in a place of consolation, or on his parents’ right to care for their child. Instead they chose to focus on vague accounts of “threats” to hospital staff; they were outraged at what they termed “Catholic fundamentalists” advocating on behalf of the child’s parents.
The name Alder Hey Hospital stirred memories. This hospital was at the center of a scandal at the end of the last century. Between 1988 and 1995, it was revealed that, without parental consent, the hospital had harvested 2,080 organs, removed from 800 children. Also without consent, Alder Hey had stored 1,500 foetuses that had been miscarried, stillborn or aborted. The subsequent government inquiry revealed how the doctor at the centre of the scandal had systematically and illegally ordered the removal of every organ from every child who had had a postmortem. It also told how in his office at the hospital, the same medical practitioner had kept the head of an 11-year-old child in a jar.
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I can’t help it, she said, pulling a long face,
It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She’s had five already, and nearly died of young George.)
The chemist said it would be all right, but I’ve never been the same.
The Culture of Death in Britain is all pervasive. So brazenly was it on display this past week that the scales dropped from the eyes of any who wished to see. Many do not want to see though. Instead, they prefer to see “fanatics” outside abortion facilities and think nothing further of what is taking place within the “clinics.” The same eyes look away as life support machines are turned off, and the full force of the law is used to prevent the sick moving to a better place to die.
The death of Alfie Evans came one day after the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the 1967 Abortion Act, the legislation that legalized abortion in England and Wales, and which ushered in a new understanding of what it is to be human in that jurisdiction.
Today, the Culture of Death has had 50 years of legalized sacrifice. In a country where the idea of individual rights is a mantra endlessly recited, there is one right that must never be talked of, let alone protected, the right to life for the child as yet unborn. Seemingly, now, the shadow of the Culture of Death envelops: the weak, the elderly, the defenseless, even the dying…
In this past week the darkness over Albion became ever more impenetrable. Although one thing is clear, in what now seems a perpetual night across this land, all the devils are here…
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept…
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.
Editor’s note: Pictured above is Tom Evans, the father of Alfie Evans, in St. Peter’s Square after his meeting with Pope Francis on April 18, 2018. (Photo credit: Daniel Ibáñez / CNA)