R.I.P., Charlie Gard, Martyr To His Own Best Interests

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/07/28/r-i-p-charlie-gard-martyr-to-his-own-best-interests/

An American brain surgeon who did his residency in England became friendly with his landlady when he lived there, and some years ago, as an older woman, she came to this country to stay with him and his family for several days.

While visiting here the woman, who was about 80, had some trouble breathing, so she went to a hospital. The doctors did some tests, determined she had a blockage that needed immediate treatment, and almost immediately performed multiple bypass surgery. It went well, and in a fairly short time she was breathing fine again.

When she got back to England she went to see her doctor. He scolded her. At her age, he told her, she shouldn’t have had the surgery. Not because it was risky, but because it was a waste of precious resources.

In other words:  She should have died.

The death of little Charlie Gard in England earlier today brings to mind that story, and two other matters besides.

The first is the discounting of human life, which is obvious and speaks for itself.

The second is somehow worse:  The old woman’s doctor thought he had a right not only to his opinion (as heartless and defeatist as it was), but also to decide for his patient whether she should live or die. In other words, he was not only wrong-headed; he was a totalitarian.

Just so with doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, who not only pronounced Charlie incurable, but refused to let his parents take him somewhere else where doctors were more hopeful.

The story isn’t directly analogous all along the line. The old woman’s condition was curable, while Charlie’s prospects looked tough even if he got treatment somewhere else. But the same principles are visible:  Who gets to decide?  The individual?  (Or the individual’s family, in the case where the individual isn’t able to make a decision?)

Or the government?

Pope Francis, President Donald Trump, and the U.S. Congress had their finest moments in some time when they not only expressed support for Charlie’s parents but also invited them and made it theoretically possible for them to take Charlie out of England for treatment. (Charlie Gard never made it here, but he died a permanent resident of the United States.)

But doctors at the hospital in London said no. Then judges in England said no. Then judges of the European Union refused to get involved.

The elderly female judge on the United Kingdom Supreme Court should have been wearing a black cap as she read her court’s decision explaining that a British statute called The Children’s Act of 1989 provided that “the child’s bests interests shall be a primary consideration” and that those interests were best decided, not by his parents, but by a “guardian” (appointed by the government), the doctors (paid by the government health service), and the trial court judge (appointed by the government).

“So parents are not entitled to insist on treatment by anyone which is not in the child’s best interests,” the hanging judge said.

Those bests interests, remember, were to die without further treatment, over the objections of his parents. With best interests like that, who needs worse interests?

You might be thinking that the London doctors are examples of hubris, that they were overconfident about their own diagnostic abilities and surely would have felt comeuppance if Charlie had gone to the United States or Italy and gotten effective treatment — or, worse, a cure.

But possibly not. Possibly they felt they were doing a service to the state and to the community by pronouncing one more person not only incurable but not worth trying to save.

Lest it seem a faraway problem, be assured that similar cases aren’t far away from home. Death panels and their near-equivalent are not only a real possibility, they’re a necessary outgrowth of Obamacare, which the United States Senate declined to repeal in the wee hours of this day, on a 49-51 vote, with three Republicans providing the margin of defeat. The only way the numbers for mass-subsidized health care can work (for a while) is if most of us die on time.

And if we refuse to die on time? Well, then, we might need some help. From those who have our best interests at heart.