Ten-month-old Charlie Gard will die soon–against the wishes of his parents, but in accordance with the desires of a judge.
Charlie, who was born on August 4 last year, is one of only 16 cases of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, a condition that saps energy from the organs and muscles, leaving patients’ lungs so weak that they can only breathe with a ventilator.
He has lived in a London hospital since he was eight weeks old.
In March, doctors told his parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, that they should withdraw their child from the ventilator, as there was nothing else they could do, but the parents refused–mostly on the grounds that an untried experimental treatment was available in the United States.
They found an eminent doctor willing to try the unproven therapy, and supporters have helped them raise $1.7 million dollars to pay for it.
But the hospital, in accordance with British health law, fought the parents in court to prevent further treatment, and in early June, England’s Supreme Court agreed with the hospital. This week, the European Court of Human Rights—the court of last appeal—refused to overturn that decision, sealing Charlie’s fate.
Charlie’s respirator was scheduled to be withdrawn on Friday, but after outrage about the order grew and Pope Francis intervened, hospital administrators granted the parents a few more days to spend beside their child before the respirator is removed. The pope’s statement said that it is “never” right to deliberately end a human life and added, “Dear Charlie … We are praying for you.”
All day Friday, members of “Charlie’s Army” — volunteers who raised the money for the healthcare denied to him— —showed their support for the family outside the Great Ormond Street Hospital. At St. Peter’s Square in Rome, a rosary was prayed for Charlie and his family.
According to the courts, Charlie’s death was “in Charlie’s best interests.” It was “with a heavy heart” that Justice Francis sided with the hospital, he said, adding that Charlie should be allowed to “to die with dignity.”
In effect, the court decided that the same parents who fought tirelessly for their son’s life could not be trusted to act in his best interest. The judge could make a better decision.
Which is how it goes with government healthcare. Perhaps one day this same logic will be used to clear beds for younger or otherwise “worthier” patients in a hospital with limited resources.
Yet that may be termed “compassionate,” too. Remember the Death Panels?
This year, Charlie Gard is the victim of that compassion.
[note: This article was written by Joe Vidueira]