So what would it take for the Alfie Evans case to draw major coverage in elite American publications?
That was the main question discussed in this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.
At the time I wrote my first post on this topic, earlier this week, the NPR site was blank (it still is, by the way), in terms of "Alfie" content and justifiably famous international desk of The New York Times was running short stories from the Associated Press. However, The Washington Post had published a major story -- from the religion-news desk. (CNN did a story of its own, as well.)
Maybe the key was to view this as a religion-beat story?
The Times has now published a lengthy story about the case, under the headline: "Fight Over Alfie Evans, a Brain-Damaged Baby, Divides U.K." Here is the calm overture:
LONDON -- Alfie Evans does not know it, but he is the subject of a national debate in Britain, international diplomacy and a bitter legal dispute. He is held up as a tragedy, a beacon of hope and an object lesson. And he might not live to turn 2 years old.
The hospital and doctors treating him in Liverpool say that Alfie suffers from a degenerative neurological condition that is certainly fatal, that he is in a semi-vegetative state and that the only humane course of action is to let him die. His parents, supported by the Italian and Polish governments and the pope, are not convinced that he is beyond hope, or even that the doctors understand his condition, and they want to continue his care.
On Wednesday, the British Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that not only approved the withdrawal of care and sustenance, but also prohibited his parents from seeking treatment elsewhere, despite an invitation to take him to a hospital in Rome. The decision is wrenching to the parents, the courts have said, but prolonging Alfie’s life would prolong his suffering, and so it would be contrary to his interests.
The staff of Alder Hey Children’s Hospital took Alfie off a ventilator on Monday, but defying expectations, he kept breathing on his own.
The religion angles of the story are covered -- kind of.
Want to start a riot in Catholic cyberspace? Open up a forum to debate the following Times statement of fact, which -- please note -- has no source or attribution.
Roman Catholic doctrine allows doctors to withdraw medical care, even food and water, under some circumstances but not others.
But back to the original question: What would put this story on the evening news? What would move it out of the back pages and on A1 in America?
It is, of course, a European story. That's part of this. It is also a story in which Pope Francis is defending Catholic doctrine, as opposed to discussing doctrine in terms that elite media see as "progressive" and, thus, helping the church evolve to embrace modernity.
We all know that the press would react if America's Tweeter In Chief unleashed a tsunami of opinion on this matter. At that point this would become a political story and, thus, real. Again let me note: This underscores the significance of the Post turning to the religion desk earlier this week for solid, balanced, Alfie coverage.
Meanwhile, there are other questions to consider.
Would it be A1 news if the pope traveled to England, picked up Alfie Evans in his arms and carried him to the transportation arranged by the Italian government -- which has declared Alfie a citizen of Italy?
Of course it would. And what about this question?
It seems like the matter is settled now. The child is not allowed to go somewhere that will treat him. He must die. All that remains to be seen is whether Alder Hey Hospital will magnanimously allow his parents to take him home.
But many Brits, and many people in America, have been too distracted by the birth of a new royal baby to notice the Alfie Evans saga. Today Britain is fluttering with news that Prince William and Kate will announce their baby's name. How exciting! Alfie is being held hostage and killed, but the significance of that news certainly pales in comparison to the royal baby's name announcement.
Now, let us consider: what if, God forbid, this child ever becomes as sick as Alfie Evans? What if Prince George or Princess Charlotte find themselves in the hospital with their own mysterious brain condition? It would be a very sad thing, indeed. No sadder than it would be for any other child, but still sad.
Do we have any doubts about how the situation would unfold with a royal baby in Alfie's shoes? Need we even debate the subject?
Would that story receive front-page coverage in elite American publications? Of course.
So, news consumers, what have we learned here?
Enjoy the podcast (if "enjoy" is the right word).