The Charlie Gard Case and Its Obvious Implications
David Catron
by

Most of the people following the macabre case of Charlie Gard were relieved when the British hospital holding the child hostage decided to let the 11-month old live until it has conferred with Perfidious Albion’s High Court. In a statement issued Friday, Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) added that it had condescended to inform Charlie’s parents of the decision, “and will continue to keep them fully appraised of the situation.” In a sane world most observers would shout, “What in Hell does the court system have to do with this kid’s care and why are his parents treated as mere bystanders?”

Welcome to the brave new world of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), where fiscal chaos is rife, morally bankrupt bureaucrats collude with bewigged judges in scarlet robes to decide who deserves treatment, and pestiferous patients are expected to be grateful for “free” health care. For the happy few who have remained blissfully unaware of the grotesque saga of GOSH and its diminutive victim here’s some background on Charlie’s situation from the “Charlie’s Fight” website created by his parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, to raise public awareness of this perversion of medical ethics:

Charlie’s condition is caused by a disruption in the mitochondria, the part of the cell that provides energy to his muscles, kidneys and brain. There is a new treatment available which is a nucleoside bypass therapy, which could potentially repair Charlie’s mtDNA and help it synthase again by giving him the naturally occurring compounds that his body isn’t able to produce. It’s oral medication so it’s nothing invasive or harmful.

Charlie’s condition is extremely rare and uniformly fatal. Moreover, the nucleoside bypass therapy that his parents want to try is experimental and may require transporting Charlie to the U.S. Thus, the bureaucrats and doctors of GOSH decided that Charlie’s case is hopeless and that he should be taken off of life support. The boy’s parents disagreed with that decision and initiated a legal challenge against it, but they got nowhere in the lower courts and Britain’s High Court ruled against them. And, when the parents appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, it didn’t deign to hear the case.

Under ordinary circumstances, this would boil down to resources. The NHS, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, is running out of other people’s money. But, in Charlie’s case, money is not a problem. Gard and Yates have raised more than £1.3 million from sympathetic donors, so it would cost the NHS nothing to accede to their wishes. So, why won’t they set Charlie free? The answer is all too obvious: Socialized medicine isn’t about health care — it’s about power. The bureaucrats of the social democratic state see the resourceful individualism represented by Charlie’s parents as an existential threat.

And this sort of apprehension is by no means limited to the apparatchiks who run the UK’s crumbling health care system. Father Frank Pavone relates a similar travesty that occurred in Canada’s much-vaunted single-payer system. This involved the widely publicized “Baby Joseph” case wherein a man named Moe Maraachli and his wife pleaded with a hospital in London, Ontario to perform a relatively minor procedure to prolong the life of their terminally ill son. The hospital’s bureaucrats and doctors refused. The parents turned in desperation to Father Pavone, who describes the situation thus:

[Joseph] was a baby with a degenerative disease whose parents were asking for a simple tracheotomy for their son. The Canadian hospital would not do it, despite the wishes of parents. Our organization, Priests for Life, was able to find a hospital in St. Louis willing to receive the child and do the tracheotomy and, if nothing further could be done, let the parents take Joseph home for the rest of his days. Oddly, the hospital in Canada said no.

Joseph’s parents had attempted, like Charlie’s parents, to get relief from the Canadian “justice” system and were equally unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Priests for Life and various likeminded organizations kept the pressure on the hospital and its increasingly jittery administrators, and that eventually forced them to release Joseph from captivity. Similarly, public pressure on the NHS on behalf of Charlie Gard has been steadily intensifying, including a statement from President Trump and another from the Pope. Moreover, some in the international medical community have questioned the judgment of GOSH’s doctors.

One of the reasons these doctors can justify decisions such as those made by the people charged with the care of Charlie Gard and Joseph Maraachli, by the way, is that they have been inculcated in a relatively new system of bioethics that has been the subject of some little controversy in the medical community — a bioethics concept that Wesley J. Smith has dubbed “futile care theory” (FCT). The general idea is that doctors should be able to withdraw care from a patient, without considering the opinions of parents like Gard and Yates and Maraachli, if they believe that additional care would be “futile.” Smith explains:

FCT empowers strangers to make medicine’s most important and intimate health-care decisions. Deciding whether to accept or reject life-sustaining care is one of the most difficult medical choices. Under FCT, a patient’s decision — whether it be the desire of an infant patient’s guardians or written in an adult patient’s advance directive — matters less than institutional and professional opinions.

And this is precisely the reasoning used by the British court system to determine whether Charlie Gard should be taken off of life support. As Friday’s GOSH statement puts it, “The ruling of Mr Justice Francis states: ‘It is lawful, and in Charlie’s best interests not to undergo nucleoside therapy, provided always that the measures and treatments adopted are the most compatible with maintaining Charlie’s dignity.’” It isn’t a coincidence that a primary architect and frequent defender of Obamacare, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, is enamored of this kind of “best interest” approach. In 2003 the good doctor wrote:

[T]he best-interests criterion holds that the surrogate should evaluate treatments by balancing their benefits and risks… physicians rely on family members to make decisions that they feel is best and only object if these decisions seem to demand treatments that the physicians consider nonbeneficial. Without a perfect solution to the problems raised by proxy decision making, this approach may be the most reasonable one in difficult circumstances.

Which brings us back to Charlie Gard. Presumably, Emanuel would agree with the GOSH doctors as well as the British courts. He would probably consider nucleoside therapy “nonbeneficial.” And Emanuel’s views on medical ethics are probably the wave of the future if government-run health care is what we end up with once the GOP finishes dithering on Obamacare repeal. If a high profile and sympathetic patient like Charlie stirs no pity in the hearts of Britain’s bureaucrats it’s hard to see our well-fed masters in Washington leaving Americans like us with much power over our health care.

And, for the people who will make the call across the pond or inside the Beltway, that’s the name of the game. They don’t give a damn about health care any more than they care about climate change or income inequality or the rights of the transgendered. For them, it’s all about power.

David Catron
David Catron
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David Catron is a health care consultant and frequent contributor to The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter at @Catronicus.
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