When trust is lost, no one wins

What can we learn from the Alfie Evans case at Alder Hey Children's Hospital?

Children’s nurses will have been saddened to hear that Alfie Evans has died. Each of us wish it could have been otherwise and offer sympathy to the family.

Protestors at Alder Hey Children's Hospital. Picture: Getty Images

Children’s nurses are familiar with the difficulties surrounding issues of life and death and they often have to negotiate a delicate path to manage the practicalities of each. It is never easy and this is because there are grey areas – situations where life can be supported, but where death may be preferable.

Confrontational relationships between hospital and parents are rare, but when they happen nurses still have to care for the child, maintain relationships with the parents and sustain relationships with medics. Each team member will have their own views and all views should be respected. However, some of the events surrounding this case were chilling. The sight of a crowd disrupting the running of the hospital was disturbing. Another was the necessity to issue advice to staff to hide their identities when they came to work to care for other children and their families. Staff were harassed, harangued and needed to be protected by police, a few have received death threats. 

Emotion and media interest provide opportunities for fractions in a free society to hijack the situation for their own ends; extreme pro-life views and supporters, extreme libertarians arguing against the state deciding the fate of their citizens and medics pushing for experimental medical opportunities.    

So, where do we go from here and what can we learn from this? We have tools, tick boxes and flow charts for just about everything, do we need to add parent profiling to the list?  Should we assess every family for the risk, in the event of a poor outcome, for the potential that relationships could become toxic? I hope not, trust is everything. 

Doreen Crawford is consultant editor Nursing Children and Young People