I wrote last week about the case of the terminally ill baby Charlie Gard, who is being forced to die against his parent’s wishes by the British courts; by the time you’re reading this, Charlie may already be dead. Last week I criticized the Vatican’s response to this tragedy, which came down not on the side of the parents but on the side of a weak and ineffectual and evasive statement about “complexity:” it turns out the Pontifical Academy for Life thinks there is something terribly “complex” about the British government’s passive-euthanasia policy of usurping the rights of parents to try to save their children’s lives. I’d hate to see what the PAV thinks “simplicity” looks like.
Quite apart from the embarrassing and uncomfortable declaration from Rome, however, is the quaintly horrifying legalities of the case itself: the British government is now apparently in the business of telling parents what kinds of medical treatment they can and cannot seek for their dying children. Note well that this is not a matter of the National Health Service’s declining to pay for a treatment; the Gards have raised over a million dollars via private donations to fly Charlie to the United States for an experimental medical procedure, so they’re not putting British taxpayers on the hook. No, the government is denying the Gards the chance to save Charlie’s life as a matter of principle, in effect telling them: “It’s a long shot and your baby’s life isn’t worth it.”
This is, in the one hand, a genuinely terrifying thing to contemplate. Yet on the other hand it is the perfectly logical end-point of progressive statism, something that could have been and indeed has been foreseen by critics of overlarge government. Consider the “FAQs” regarding this case released by the hospital that is attempting to unplug Charlie and let him die:
Why is there a court process?
When parents do not agree about a child’s future treatment, it is standard legal process to ask the courts to make a decision. This is what happened in Charlie’s case.
“When parents do not agree about a child’s future treatment…” Interesting turn of phrase, that: what the hospital means in this case is when parents disagree with doctors. So it is evidently “standard legal process” for doctors to run bawling to the courts when parents have the temerity to hold a different opinion about their children’s best interests. Such things can, in certain rare cases, happen in the United States, of course—but I am unaware of any “standard legal process” in this country that permits the state to forbid parents from seeking potentially life-saving treatment for their sick children.
In Europe I suppose this is looked upon as a matter of course—yet another instance of the government’s capricious and overbearing decision-making process deciding, quite apart from any defensible principle, that the wants and desires and authority of individual citizens are of little to no consequence. There is no real reason that the Gards should not be permitted to transport their precious boy to the United States for treatment, other than that NHS doctors and the British government chafe at having their authority questioned and would rather let a little boy die than have his parents seek out a medical procedure of which the government and the doctors do not approve. The idiot opinions of a bunch of pompous overproud government employees evidently trump the desperate desire of two parents to allow their child his last real shot at life. That sounds like a great mode of government—the Left is right, how come we’re not more like Europe?!
There are a great many reasons I do not like big government, but chief among them is its propensity for heartless actuarial decision-making; government is staffed by real people, but its mechanistic functions make its judgment processes more like a robot’s than a human being’s. Charlie Gard is someone’s baby. There is a chance for him to survive—chance enough for his parents to want to give it a shot. It is their prerogative, not the state’s, to decide their child’s “future treatment.” The government has decided for them, however. The average statist might assess the situation, shrug, and say, “Oh well, no big deal.” The rest of us can only look on in horror.