A high court judge has cited Pope Francis to argue that life support should be withdrawn from a baby.

Alfie Evans’s parents wanted their child to receive treatment at the Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome, where three consultants offered to operate on him to improve his breathing, allowing him to survive for an “undefined period”.

But Mr Justice Hayden ruled that Alfie could not be taken abroad, but should have life support eventually withdrawn. The parents are hoping to appeal against the decision.

Doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool said continuing life support would be “unkind, unfair and inhumane”. Justice Hayden said Alfie was now only being kept alive by a ventilator and therefore: “It drives me reluctantly, and with great sadness, to one conclusion”: that the baby should “conclude his life as he has lived it”.

The judge cited a letter written last year by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Academy for Life, in which the Pontiff cautioned against “over-zealous treatment” and said that “To determine whether a clinically appropriate medical intervention is actually proportionate, the mechanical application of a general rule is not sufficient.”

The judge said: “I am satisfied that continued ventilatory support is no longer in Alfie’s interests. This decision I appreciate will be devastating news to Alfie’s parents.”

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