Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and their accomplices in the legal system are trying to kill a baby for the ‘crime’ of being terminally ill; they call it to ‘die with dignity’. Baby Charlie Gard has a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which saps energy from vital organs and causes progressive muscle weakness. Yet some years ago our Parliamentarians decided to abolish the death penalty for heinous crimes. Something feels morally wrong here. Hospitals (including the world renowned GOSH) were once places exclusively for treatment for sickness and doctors the people who treated the sick. But now they have a side-line in involuntary euthanasia. And these life or death ethical decisions, including refusing offers of medical treatment from overseas (Italy and America), are being legally sanctioned by judges acting as judge and jury. Criminals get more attention paid to their apparent ‘human rights’.
Our Judeo-Christian tradition teaches of the sanctity of human life (e.g. the commandment thou shalt not kill) and this forms the bedrock for our concepts of liberty, democracy and ownership of property. Life is the most important property anyone can own. The American Declaration of Independence reiterates the ideas of English philosopher and physician John Locke with the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. This is not an argument that any experimental treatment will work for Baby Gard (it may or may not), but that any human being has a right to life. It is little wonder then that both the Pope and President Trump (unlike our own ruling establishment) have spoken out (tweeted) and offered practical help.
This right to life (in principle at least) exists regardless of age or the ability to survive independently. In the real world there must be practical limits to what is possible and some difficult decisions to be made particularly on the allocation of resources. In some cases palliative treatment is the only viable option until nature takes its inevitable course. However, such life or death decisions and resulting powers can be abused especially by a ruling class which is out of touch with humanity. The fight for Baby Gard is then something with the potential to affect all of us.
If an unaccountable omnipotent state can take away the power of life from babies what else can it also ‘justify’ taking away? Suitable organ replacements are particularly difficult to find for babies and children, and in themselves involve a tragedy for the donor., so a case could be made for removing life support early because a donor is unlikely to be found in time. Then there is the rest of the population. Why not neglect the old, infirm and poor because it is the cheaper option? Our government already does involuntary euthanasia through the Climate Change Act and the resulting politically engineered overpricing of energy (including electricity). There does not appear to be statistics for actual deaths arising through inability to adequately heat homes but the estimated overall excess of deaths during winter is 24,300 for 2015/2016.
Perhaps in other ways the plight of Baby Gard affects many of us. Although he suffers from a rare disorder, something like one person in eight actually suffers from a life impacting rare condition simply because there are so many of these diseases. Collectively then it is a big problem. Unfortunately we don’t appear to have an equivalent of the American Office for Rare Disease Research. Also as the Baby Gard case shows there is a marked reluctance on the part of the authorities here to countenance medical treatment in other countries (the US and Italy in this instance), where appropriate. Experimental treatments (such as the one proposed) are subject to strict regulation in advanced countries. In America the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the responsibility for approving the use of drugs and is especially focused on the safety and effectiveness of new therapies. The FDA has very strict guidelines which would apply if Baby Gard, or anyone else, who was treated there because our NHS lacks the will or resources to treat them here.
If we are going to put babies (or other vulnerable human beings) on trial for their lives (because they are sick) then at least we should try to give them a voice. We cannot know what Baby Gard would want but should age and the ability to communicate make a difference to passing a death sentence on the innocent and helpless? If Baby Gard could speak and understand, what would he want? ‘Yes please kill me at the earliest opportunity’ or ‘Please just try any treatment and if it doesn’t work, try another’?
Also any trial should be in front of a jury to deal with the question of fact and to decide what is morally correct. Twelve good men (or women) and true are more likely to understand the major issue here, that a hospital (backed by the state) is trying to legally kill a British citizen and human being.
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: Deuteronomy 30:19