Alfie Evans, the little boy at the heart of a legal battle in the United Kingdom over his right to live and his parents' right to have a say in his care, died early Saturday. He was 23-months-old.
The toddler had an undiagnosed brain disease that doctors said left him with almost no brain function, and mulitple courts in the UK legal system ruled that letting him live was not in his best interests.
Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool took Alfie off life support on Monday with the permission of the UK's High Court.
His parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, announced their son's death on social media. Tom posted to his Facebook page, "My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 2:30. Absolutely heartbroken. I LOVE YOU MY GUY."
Alfie had his own "Alfies Army" Facebook page that had more than 800,000 members from around the globe.
Kate posted on the Alfies Army page, "Our baby boy grew his wings tonight at 2:30 am. We are heart broken. Thankyou everyone for all your support."
To pay tribute to Alfie, hundreds of Alfie's Army supporters released balloons at a park. Sarah Evans, his aunt, thanked them, saying, "Our hearts are broken. We are absolutely shattered as a family," according to the BBC.
Sarah Evans said Alfie's family wanted to bring him home on Saturday, according to Independent.
Watch the BBC's video of the balloon release in memory of Alfie.
Born in May 2016, the BBC reported Alfie was first admitted to the hospital in December of that year after experiencing seizures. Since then, he remained a patient.
Alfie's case sparked a medical ethics debate that resonated around the world. The Liverpool physicians who worked on his case said further treatment was futile, and he should be allowed to die.
However, his parents fought to get a judge to allow them to take their little boy to a Vatican hospital, where medical treatment would continue.
CBN News spoke with Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is representing Alfie's father, about the toddler's death.
"We're all heartbroken, devastated," she said. "These parents have called him 'their little warrior,' and for that he surely was. I also thought to say that these parents are extraordinary parents."
"They have left no stone unturned in their desire to do the best for Alfie," Williams continued. "And I have a lot of respect for them and all they thought to do for him."
"What the world has seen here is a situation whereby the parents have managed to secure an alternative health care plan," she told CBN News. "They wanted to access this, and they were denied that possibility by the state."
"And that was very troubling; it was distressing, and that is something that we have to address in British society," Williams continued. "That's something that we have to look at because the parental rights cannot be usurped."
In February, Mr. Justice Hayden of the High Court ruled that whatever was causing Alfie's condition, the damage to the toddler's brain was so severe that it was in his best interest to be taken off life support.
Steven Woolfe, Member of the European Parliament, who is pushing to change the law in the UK "in favour of parents", tweeted, "I am devastated by the passing of little Alfie, who has been a fighter throughout. Tom and Kate have been the most brave and courageous parents. My thoughts and prayers are with them and their family. Please respect the family's grief and privacy at this time."
I am devastated by the passing of little Alfie, who has been a fighter throughout. Tom and Kate have been the most brave and courageous parents. My thoughts and prayers are with them and their family. Please respect the family's grief and privacy at this time.
— Steven Woolfe MEP (@Steven_Woolfe) April 28, 2018
In a statement issued on its website, Alder Hey Children's Hospital said: "We wish to express our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to Alfie's family at this extremely distressing time. All of us feel deeply for Alfie, Kate, Tom and his whole family and our thoughts are with them. 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."
Pope Francis, who had publicly supported Evans' and James' campaign, wrote condolences that were posted on Twitter.
"I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie," the pope said. "Today, I pray especially for his parents, as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace."
I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie. Today I pray especially for his parents, as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 28, 2018
Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted support for Evans and James, writing, "Saddened to hear of the passing of young Alfie Evans. Karen & I are praying for comfort and peace for his parents, Katie & Tom, during this incredibly difficult time. May God be with them all."
Saddened to hear of the passing of young Alfie Evans. Karen & I are praying for comfort and peace for his parents, Katie & Tom, during this incredibly difficult time. May God be with them all.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) April 28, 2018
Facebook followers also left their condolences.
"My heart aches for you Tom and Katie and all of Alfies family. We are thinking of you and will always remember your beautiful boy Alfie Evans," wrote Brooke Ewing.
Kelly Jones-Brome posted, "My love goes to all the family especially Kate and Tom xxx You put up a great fight little man."
"What truly amazing parents you are. You all fought so hard. God bless you Alfie my love is with you all," wrote follower Gail Compton.