*Reuters photo- Eddie Keogh
Almost 12 years ago my mother looked down at my newborn baby brother to see blood oozing out of the corner of his mouth. By the time my parents realized what was happening, the nurse had grabbed my brother from her arms and rushed him to the emergency room. Three days later, it was beginning to look like he wouldn’t make it. He had tubes running in and out of his body, draining fluids from his lungs and keeping his panted breath going. My brother’s story ends happily. He recovered and was released from the hospital after only 10 days. Today, thinking of the death of Charlie Gard, I’m reminded of my brother’s struggle for life and the effort expended to win that battle on his behalf.
Ever since it became evident that Charlie’s parents (Chris Gard and Sally Yates) were not content to let their child die without a fight, the British government, and eventually the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), made sure that nobody would get in the way of Charlie’s deserved “dignified” death. Not his own parents, not Donald Trump, not even the Pope.
Well, they got what they wanted.
This morning, CNN reported that little Charlie Gard died in hospice, one week before his first birthday. It should be noted, though, that he died with dignity, not because his parents surrendered, but because he and his parents fought for months to save his life. They did everything they could. More could have been done, but the ECHR decided they had done enough.
Of course, the court had to rule that little Charlie’s parents did not have the right to do whatever possible to save their child’s life, because this right would threaten the Left’s cherished right to universal, nationalized healthcare. Nevermind the fact that the Gard family raised £1.3 million ($1.65 million) through a GoFundMe to cover the costs of sending Charlie to America to be treated, the court simply could not allow the precedent for caring for a child that needs such an expensive procedure to be set.
Had the court allowed Charlie to go to America, a precedent would have been set requiring other people with expensive, but likely fatal health conditions to be given treatment. This becomes a problem when some of these people may not be able to raise the kind of money that Charlie’s family did, and would instead have to be covered by Britain’s healthcare system.
This was not a question of dignity, after all, what court concerned with the dignity of human life could rule that a person who is able to pay for a procedure that could improve the life of a child should not be allowed to pursue that option? This was a cold, hard calculation that the British National Health Service (NHS) simply would not be able to pay to treat other children like Charlie, so they shouldn’t allow Charlie to be treated either.
Justice Francis of the UK Supreme Court argued that the only way to maintain “Charlie’s dignity” would be to remove him from the artificial ventilators. I hear this “die with dignity” rhetoric surrounding much of the euthanasia debate in the US. Though euthanasia has been a relatively common practice in Europe for some time now, the debate has resurfaced in the US in recent “right to die” cases. As a matter of fact, Pitt invited a speakeron election day last year to give a talk on the benefits of euthanasia. In Europe, the patients and families often have less of a say in whether or not they or their loved ones should be given a “dignified death” (euthanized), or be left to live. Unsurprisingly, this has led to more issues than just Charlie’s case. In 2013, a 90 year old womanwas nearly starved to death while being treated for a dislocated shoulder, against the wishes of both she and her family.
This case was one of many involving the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient (LCP), which England recently phased out due to similar cases. Charlie suffered from the same inconvenience that many in the LCP suffered from: he was too expensive to care for. In the eyes of the NHS, Charlie and the victims of the LCP were a burden to society that would be easier to let die than to care for.
Where, after all, is the dignity in giving up? Where is the dignity in starving a 90 year old woman, healthy except for a dislocated shoulder? To put it simply, there is none. Euthanasia is simply murder for the sake of convenience. Murder because a family no longer wants to take care of their grandmother, or because a child is too expensive for the state to pay for. There is no dignity in murder, it is indefensible under any name. Of course, it must be made defensible for the sake of universal healthcare. Without euthanasia, Britain could not avoid bankruptcy brought on by the NHS. It would simply be too expensive to care for everyone, so some must die so others may be cared for.
This is essentially how the argument goes: “Want that knee surgery? That will cost you one grandmother. Want that laser eye surgery? That will be one terminally ill child.” This sick moral code that rejects the sanctity of life is the same one being touted by the ECHR, Justice Francis, and the growing number of “right to die” activists. How morally bankrupt has the West become that the highest authority on human rights in Europe would reject the most basic human right, the right to life, to preserve the fiscal health of a government institution? While the Left utilizes lofty rhetoric to vouch for universal healthcare, the reality is that these systems are cold hearted and lack human empathy.
The great irony in this tragedy is that Charlie did die a dignified death. Not because his pain and suffering was likely shortened by the decision to force him off life support, but because he and his parents fought so long and hard to keep him alive. Because he touched the lives of 84,382 people enough for them to donate their money to save his life. Because his parents rejected the notion that to die with dignity, is to give up. In a heartbreaking statement following Charlie’s death, Chris Gard said, “we will have to live with ‘what-ifs,’ which will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”
For what it is worth, at least they will not have to wonder if their child had an impact on people’s lives, as millions around the world followed his story. The mark of a dignified life is not found in comfort or pragmatism, it is found in how you affect the people around you. In 11 months, Charlie and his parents did more to raise awareness about the devaluation of human life in Western society than most people could hope to do in a lifetime. In this way, Charlie lived a more dignified life than most of the people who the court would consider to be living with dignity.
The BBC quoted Ms. Yates in a statement I think is particularly profound: “we are so proud of you, Charlie.” Charlie may not have been as lucky as my brother, but his short time on this earth was well lived. We must remember Charlie Gard, his name, his story, and the lessons about the system that guaranteed his death.