What King Solomon Could Teach British Courts about the Case of Alfie Evans

Last month, the parents of Alfie Evans—a twenty-three-month-old British boy with a mysterious degenerative disease, whose doctors had decided against keeping him alive—lost a legal battle first to have the boy kept on a respirator and then to allow them to take him to Italy for treatment (being offered gratis), and finally to take Alfie home to care for him themselves in his final days. At each point—even when Alfie defied the doctors’ predictions and breathed on his own for several days—the court ruled that the hospital, not the parents, had the authority to determine the child’s best interests. To shed light on this case, Devorah Goldman suggests looking to the well-known passage in the book of Kings where Solomon decides between two women claiming to be the mother of the same baby:

The women [in 1Kings 3] had lived in the same house and had given birth within days of one another, yet one of their babies had tragically died. Each claimed that her healthy, living baby had been kidnapped by the other and replaced with the dead infant. To resolve the matter, Solomon ordered his servants to fetch a sword and to “divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.” The true mother pleaded for her son to be given to her rival so long as he might be allowed to live, while the mother of the deceased child agreed with the verdict, stating, “Let it be neither mine nor yours, divide it.” Solomon immediately ordered that the child be given to the woman who had begged for his life. . . .

The decision of the hospitals and courts to disregard not only the feelings of the parents in this case but also the efforts of foreign medical authorities to take responsibility for Alfie is confounding. . . . Particularly since [the hospital’s] medical staff admitted that they had not arrived at a diagnosis for Alfie, it is difficult to understand what lay at the heart of their decision to prevent his travel to Rome, and what they believed they stood to gain. . . .

In the story of Solomon, the woman who had kidnapped a child arguably had nothing left to lose by allowing another woman’s son to die. She had already lost a child. At least in this way, she would be able to maintain her pride and not be proved a liar. The case of Alfie Evans and Alder Hey [Hospital] may not be so different. The public challenge to their judgment, and Alfie’s subsequent independent breathing, might have embarrassed them. Their thinly veiled annoyance at the parents’ presumption suggests that this was a rare and bold move. By not allowing [Alfie] to leave, they might have believed they would be spared further humiliation and bureaucratic upheaval.

Like King Solomon, the courts in England were presented with a straightforward question: to whom does this child belong? To Solomon, the true parent was unquestionably the one willing to sacrifice for the child, to safeguard his life even at the expense of never seeing him again. This clarity may seem facile in a time of uncertain bioethics and questions regarding what it means to be alive. And yet, as Solomon also wrote, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Public Discourse

More about: Bioethics, Euthanasia, Hebrew Bible, King Solomon, Medicine, Religion & Holidays, United Kingdom

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war