Opinion

What Charlie Gard’s tragedy means for parents in the United States

It’s been hard for me to discuss Charlie Gard. Charlie and my daughter, Sophie, whom I have written and spoken about, are around the same age. My daughter is healthy, so I can only imagine what it must be like for Charlie’s parents.

Upon hearing that Charlie’s parents have given up their legal fight to seek medical treatment for their son’s condition, it may be tempting to wonder how they could do this. But in reading Cassy Fiano’s account for Live Action News, describing a statement from Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, I understood:

Gard and Yates also don’t appear to be mincing any words about who is responsible for this turn of events. Armstrong said the delay in getting Charlie treatment has robbed him of the opportunity to have the nucleoside therapy. “Dark days lie ahead for these parents,” Armstrong said. “The parents wish to treasure their remaining time with Charlie, however short that may be.” …

“He is not brain dead,” she continued. “A whole lot of time has been wasted. Charlie’s quality of life could have been improved greatly (by earlier treatment). But the delay in seeking treatment has brought Charlie to ‘the point of no return.’ Our poor boy has just been left to lie there for months without treatment… left with this illness to deteriorate to point of no return,” she said. “But no organ has failed. No proof he is in pain or suffering. The prospect of improvement now [is] too low. The deterioration in his muscles means there is no way back. Treatment is now not in Charlie’s best interests and we will let our little boy go.”

It was never a question that Charlie would someday die, because we all die. It was a matter of when he would die, from what, and if he would even have just the opportunity for a long and healthy life, which appears to have been denied to him by the hospital and the courts. To add further insult to injury, it was revealed that the appointed lawyer for Charlie is the head of a pro-euthanasia organization. Why should this matter to us? Because there’s been a push toward legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia here in the U.S. as well — and so far, in countries where euthanasia has been legalized, people have been killed without their consent (400 such cases in the Netherlands in just one year). Where death becomes the favored course of “healthcare,” true medical treatment and advancement tends to suffer. It certainly suffered in Charlie’s case.

That Charlie and his parents are on the other side of the world does not mean that he is any less entitled to treatment and care. But it’s unfortunately not that simple. Charlie and his parents live under a single payer, government-run healthcare system. That single payer system has been criticized, and warned against, in the discussion surrounding Charlie Gard — in several different media outlets, in op-eds for regional sites, and even in Canadian press coverage. There’s a great deal of concern about not only Charlie but also about what such a system means for the role of parents in seeking healthcare for their children.

The view that parents should decide what is right for their son is held even by those who don’t agree with them on treatment.  On Tucker Carlson Tonight earlier this month, commentator Charles Krauthammer expressed such a view. He acknowledged, however, that while he did not believe continued treatment was in Charlie’s best interest, parents ought to have the ultimate say in getting medical treatment for their children.

What so starkly stands out to me in this whole discussion is that many countries — like the UK — allow for abortion, giving parents the “right” to kill their preborn children if they so desire. Charlie’s mother could have aborted him early in pregnancy in the UK, and her “right” to do so would have been defended. But Connie didn’t abort Charlie — she gave him life, and it was then that the State stepped in, putting the rule of the hospital over the desires of the parents, when more swift treatment could have made the difference for their son. While very few countries have abortion laws as relaxed as the United States, the United Kingdom is unfortunately considering decriminalizing even late-term abortion, as recommended by the British Medical Association. This will do nothing but further the idea that life is disposable and that the younger or less developed a human being is, the more he can be discriminated against.

What kind of warped mindset says it’s acceptable to kill a child in the womb based on his parents’ wishes, but it’s not acceptable to do whatever possible to save the life of that child once he is born?

Once Charlie’s parents announced their decision to end their legal battle, the Evening Standard noted that a member of Charlie’s medical team was “more sorry than I have words to say.” As LifeSiteNews.com reported earlier this month, Prime Minister Theresa May did no more than state the hospital was taking Charlie’s “well-being” into account, and that she was “sure the thoughts of all members of the House are with the family… and Charlie – at this exceptionally difficult time.”

But being sorry and sending good thoughts for this family did nothing to save Charlie. Chris Gard and Connie Yates were the ones entrusted with Charlie, and the ones who had the most invested in his well-being — not a hospital which denied him timely treatment that might have helped him.

I offer my thoughts and prayers because there is little else I feel I can do, other than speak out about the treatment (or lack thereof) Charlie and his family have received.

Charlie Gard should serve as motivation for those of us in the United States to remain vigilant, holding to the idea that human beings should be protected at all ages and stages, and that everyone deserves a chance at life.

Editor’s Note: All op-eds are the opinion of the writer, and not necessarily the official position of Live Action.

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