Alfie Evans, the sick UK toddler whose parents fought a protracted legal battle over his treatment, died early Saturday. He was 23 months old. Kate James and Tom Evans made the announcement on social media, saying they were "heartbroken." The death of Alfie, who had a rare degenerative brain condition that left him in a "semi-vegetative state" with almost no brain function, came five days after doctors removed life support, the AP reports. Doctors overseeing Alfie's care in the city of Liverpool said further treatment was futile and not in his best interests, and that he should be allowed to die. But his parents fought for months to try to convince judges to allow them to take him to the Vatican's children's hospital so he could be kept on life support. The parents' campaign was backed by the pope and Christian groups, which helped draw international attention to the case.
The hospital withdrew Alfie's life support Monday after a series of court rulings sided with the doctors and blocked further medical treatment. "My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30," Evans, 21, said in a Facebook post. Alfie's mother, 20-year-old Kate James, posted she was heartbroken over Alfie's death. The death came after an easing of tensions between the family and the hospital. Evans thanked the staff at Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital, where Alfie has been treated for more than a year, "for their dignity and professionalism during what must be an incredibly difficult time for them, too." "All of us feel deeply for Alfie, Kate, Tom, and his whole family," said a statement from Alder Hey. "This has been a devastating journey for them and we would ask that their privacy and the privacy of staff at Alder Hey is respected." (Read more Alfie Evans stories.)