Charlie Gard: The battle over a sick baby
“For almost a year, Connie Yates and Chris Gard have experienced every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Elisha Waldman in The New York Times. Their 11-month-old son, Charlie, was born with a rare genetic disorder called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, whose symptoms “are straightforward and brutal.” Charlie is blind and deaf; can’t eat, breathe, or move on his own; and has severe brain damage. The British child is now at the center of an ethical maelstrom after London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital decided to turn off his life support—prompting an anguished legal battle by his parents. They have raised $1.7 million to take him to the U.S. to try an experimental drug. But the hospital and Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) have so far won the support of the courts in the U.K., which agree that additional treatment would only serve to prolong Charlie’s suffering without offering hope.
This Gard story is a heartrending illustration of the “dangers of socialized medicine,” said Nicole Russell in TheFederalist.com. The NHS is having a severe budget crisis, so it’s not surprising it would seek to cut costs by letting an infant die, “even against his parents’ wishes.” In a government- run system, “the state knows best,” and the state has decided that Charlie’s “quality of life” doesn’t merit any more spending. In the brave new world of secular culture, said Jeff Cimmino in NationalReview.com, “lives are increasingly subject to utilitarian calculations.” It’s a slippery slope, with euthanasia the next logical step.
It may sound as if the “compassionate thing” would be to let the Gards try the last-ditch therapy, said Gaby Hinsliff in TheGuardian.com. But the drug in question hasn’t even been tested on mice; even the U.S. doctor offering it says it has “a vanishingly small chance of working,” and then to a minimal extent. Charlie’s parents “deserve our sympathy,” but his doctors say he can’t be helped, and without trust in medical experts, science, and the rule of law, “we’re all back in the dark ages.” If conservatives argue it’s immoral to cut off Charlie’s life-support machines, said Ruth Graham in Slate.com, why do they think it’s a fine idea to deprive 23 million Americans of all health-care coverage? “It’s as if the death of one child matters, but the death of thousands is the cost of ‘reform.’” ■