In Joseph Bayly’s classic novel, Winterflight, eugenics has taken a deep hold of America. The state requires euthanasia and abortion for the sick, old, and genetically imperfect. The novel follows a little boy with hemophilia hidden by his parents, the boy’s 75-year-old grandfather, and a Jewish doctor who defies the law to take care of patients in need.
When I first heard about Charlie Gard, my mind flew back to Winterflight. Published in 1981, the book portrays a world frighteningly similar to our own. For example, in the UK, 90 percent of unborn children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted. In Iceland, that number is 100 percent.
In Holland, a doctor tried to euthanize an elderly patient with dementia. When the patient fought back, the doctor directed the family to hold their loved one down. The doctor was cleared of all wrongdoing by a panel.
These stories all suggest a disturbing trend of eugenics among the profession that supposedly cares for us.
What is wrong with Charlie Gard?
Charlie Gard has a genetic disease called Mitochondrial Depletion Syndrome, or MDS. There are fewer than 100 cases in the world. The disease affects the body’s mitochondria, depleting cells of energy and causing progressive muscle weakness and destruction of the organs.
Initially, children with MDS appear normal. However, before they reach 24 months, they begin to display signs of muscle weakness and sometimes organ failure. Little Charlie began exhibiting symptoms at a mere eight weeks old. Eventually, doctors at Greater Ormond Street Hospital placed him on life support.
The Court’s Ruling
Despite their son’s illness, the Gards refused to give up hope. They heard about experimental treatment and one hospital in the United States offered to treat Charlie. The parents needed only to transport him there.
Charlie’s parents managed to raise the funds only to reach yet another hurdle: the hospital itself. Doctors at Greater Ormond claim the experimental treatment won’t do any good and will only prolong any suffering. They want to remove Charlie from life support. They say it will allow him to die with dignity while he gasps for air.
The Gards took the hospital to court, only for the U.K. High Court of Justice to rule in favor of the hospital. The European Court of Human Rights (a laughable name) upheld the U.K.’s court’s decision. After that, the doctors took things one step further: they refused to allow Charlie’s parents to take him home to die.
Maybe they’re afraid the parents will find a way to get him to the States after all?
Support from All Corners, Mostly
When news about Charlie Gard and his parents’ fight for his life began circulating, support began to pour in. People organized prayer vigils and protests, as well as sent donations. New evidence recently came to light and the court has reconvened. Currently, the judge is hearing that new evidence.
The Vatican caused a stir, however. The Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement that waffled to the point of being incoherent.
Archbishop Paglia writes that everything that can be done should be done “until natural death occurs”. However, people shouldn’t be subjected to aggressive treatments that are disproportionate to any expected results. The first part was in line with Church teaching while he contradicts himself with the latter.
Catholics reacted angrily—and for understandable reasons. The Pontifical Academy for Life should uphold life in clear tones, not issue statements that sound as if they want please everyone. Is it surprising, though? Pope Francis appointed Nigel Biggar to the Academy, a pro-abortion theologian who also supports euthanasia.
Shortly afterward, on July 2, Pope Francis repudiated the statement by offering his sympathy—and Vatican passports so that Charlie could be admitted into Bambino Gèsu Hospital. However, legal hurdles prevented the move. Bambino Gèsu did write a letter supporting research that could help Charlie.
What does all this mean?
The case has a familiar ring to it, even for those who didn’t read Bayly’s Winterflight. Terri Schiavo endured a brutal tug-of-war between her husband, her family, and the courts. Doctors repeatedly starved and dehydrated her as courts made conflicting decisions and various parties filed appeals. Finally, in 2005, a court signed her death warrant. She died on March 31 of that year, after surviving for two weeks without nutrition or hydration.
What sets the Schiavo case apart from Charlie Gard is that Schiavo’s husband was the one that wanted to initiate the euthanizing process. The decision-making began within the family and not outside it.
In Charlie’s case, the hospital stepped in to take him off life support. Doctors and staff, unrelated to Charlie, proclaimed that they had the better position to make this decision than Charlie’s parents did. In fact, one could say this is a natural escalation from the Schiavo case.
It sets a dangerous precedent. All a hospital would need to do is prove that the patient is “suffering unnecessarily” and the treatment is “disproportionate to any expected results”. When an impersonal entity, be it a hospital or a government, makes decisions regarding health care, then what is most practical or expedient will always win out.
We are Charlie Gard.
We are Charlie Gard because any one of us can become sick or disabled. This court case touches us all intimately because there may come a day when a doctor says that you, your child, or loved one is too sick to be treated and therefore must die. With the law at their back, the doctor can resort to euthanasia over the protests of the family.
Hospitals are supposed to be places of healing, recovery, and compassion. Unfortunately, they are slowly becoming charnel houses.
We are Charlie Gard because any one of us could one day lay where he lays: in a hospital bed with our loved ones on one side and those who want us dead on the other. Increasingly, the legal system has not been standing with the family. Even the Catholic Church no longer has a united voice when it comes to the defense of life.
Let us all pray for Charlie and the judge who holds his life in his hands. And may we never lay where he lays.