A recipient of Great Britain’s national health care, infant Charlie Gard was born with a rare genetic condition resulting in what is probably irreversable brain damage. He cannot move his arms or legs, eat or even breathe without a ventilator.
After 10 months of being kept alive, Charlie’s caretakers, the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, announced that it was time for Charlie to die. Chris Gard and Connie Yates, Charlie’s parents, wanted to take him to the United States to try an experimental treatment available here. The doctors at the hospital refused to allow them to take the child, and vetoed their decision, even though the parents had received sufficient funds from donations to pay for the effort. In the resulting lawsuit, British courts sided with the hospital. The parents then brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which declined to hear the case last week. The previous court rulings that it was in Charlie’s best interest to withdraw life support and that the state, not the parents, got to make this life and death decision stood.
The parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, appeared on a video this week,, sobbing and saying their son would be removed from life support at the hospital. “He’d fight to the very end, but we’re not allowed to fight for him anymore,” Gard said in the video statement. “We can’t even take our own son home to die.”
Initially, the hospital would not delay the fatal disconnection of the child from life support so family members could gather and say goodbye. It has since relented.
1. Welcome to the dark side of state-run health care, and if you can’t just nod and say, “That’s the way it has to be!” then I don’t want to hear any more blather from you about health care being “a right.”
2. Of course a state-run health care system can’t allow a doomed child to receive expensive around the clock care indefinitely. In fact, it was irresponsible to keep Charlie alive as long as the hospital did, if his condition was known at the outset.
3. Sarah Palin was viciously mocked and attacked for calling the government-reliant doctors and administrators who have to make these wrenching calls “death panels.” I particularly recall the televised sneers of Rachel Maddow and the text equivalents of Paul Krugman. They were lying. The only way national, single payer health care is even somewhat viable is with “death panels.” Anyone who denies that–inevitably misty-eyed progressives—is engaged in a con job.
4. In the British system, there was absolutely nothing unethical about the hospital telling the parents that it would not keep a terminal, brain-damaged child alive any longer. Nor would it be unethical to tell a family that their invalid, cancer-riddled, 87-year old mother could not receive any more care or treatment, even though she might survive for montsh or even years. That’s how national health care works and has to work.
5. However, preventing the parents from seeking treatment elsewhere that they would pay for themselves is a breach of basic individual rights and autonomy in any system. If the parents want to waste money on experimental treatment of their hopelessly ill child, that is their right. What’s the harm to Charlie? What does the court mean that dying now is in his “best interest?” He’s got one life, and dying is the end of life: it’s not up to the state to say, “your child is better off dead.”
Great Britain has nationalized Charlie, parenthood, and individual life, and that is ethically indefensible, as well as unnecessary, cruel, and a terrifying slippery slope.
6. In his ruling on the case in April, Justice Nicholas Francis of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice wrote that there was “unanimity among the experts” that the therapy could not repair structural brain damage. “Transporting Charlie to the USA would be problematic, but possible,” he wrote. “Subjecting him to nucleoside therapy is unknown territory — it has never even been tested on mouse models — but it may, or may not, subject the patient to pain, possibly even to mutations. But if Charlie’s damaged brain function cannot be improved, as all seem to agree, then how can he be any better off than he is now, which is in a condition that his parents believe should not be sustained?”
None Of Your Business, My Lord, you totalitarian ass. Let the parents pay to find out. Butt out.
7. The Vatican, overseen, as we should recognize by now, by a Proto-Communist, released this jaw-dropping statement, siding with the government and against the parents. Bolding is mine, and I’ll break in using italics:
The matter of the English baby Charlie Gard and his parents has meant both pain and hope for all of us. We feel close to him, to his mother, his father, and all those who have cared for him and struggled together with him until now. For them, and for those who are called to decide their future, we raise to the Lord of Life our prayers, knowing that “in the Lord our labor will not be in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement today that recognizes above all the complexity of the situation, the heartrending pain of the parents, and the efforts of so many to determine what is best for Charlie. The Bishops’ statement also reaffirms that “we should never act with the deliberate intention to end a human life, including the removal of nutrition and hydration, so that death might be achieved” but that “we do, sometimes, however, have to recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs.”
Double talk! We should never act to intentionally end life, but sometimes we have to act to end life, like when we “serve” the sick person by taking away their means of breathing.
The proper question to be raised in this and in any other unfortunately similar case is this: what are the best interests of the patient?
Wrong. The question is cases like this is “Who has the right and the power to decide on behalf of a patient who can’t decide for himself?” And the answer is: The family, as long as nobody else has to pay for it.
We must do what advances the health of the patient, but we must also accept the limits of medicine and, as stated in paragraph 65 of the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, avoid aggressive medical procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results or excessively burdensome to the patient or the family.
Who is “we”? This is a family decision. We, in this case, is the Church and the State telling parents what is best for their child. This isn’t like the Christian Science cases, where the State properly prevents a family from refusing life-saving medical treatment on their child.. This is the opposite. The State is saying that the best course is for a baby to die, and the parents want to try something else. Well, thanks for your input, doctors, Great Britain, Pope, but we want to try one more thing, and you have no ethical basis under heaven or on earth to say we cannot.
Likewise, the wishes of parents must heard and respected, but they too must be helped to understand the unique difficulty of their situation and not be left to face their painful decisions alone.
Oh, they “must be helped,” eh? Translation: “They must be brought to heal by the all-knowing State.”
If the relationship between doctor and patient (or parents as in Charlie’s case) is interfered with, everything becomes more difficult and legal action becomes a last resort, with the accompanying risk of ideological or political manipulation, which is always to be avoided, or of media sensationalism, which can be sadly superficial.
In other words, just knuckle under to your betters, Chris and Connie. We have better things to do than worry about your brain-damaged baby. Stop wasting our time.
Dear Charlie, dear parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates, we are praying for you and with you.
Oh. Well then, not letting us decide the fate of our own child is fine and dandy. As long as you’re praying.