July 30, 2017 - Charlie Gard and the Death Panel Part 2
Young Charlie Gard, the baby whose story gained prominence worldwide, passed away this week after his life support system was turned off, one week before his 1st birthday. Everyone who paid attention to the story knew early on that the chances of success were small. After a healthy birth to a mother and father who adored him, Charlie was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease several months after he was born. To current medicine, the disease is fatal; Charlie's only hope was experimental treatment. And that is where the story becomes not just that of a baby with a serious illness but also a drastic example of the dangers of government healthcare.
Charlie's case shows clearly the pillars upon which government-paid healthcare stands: resources and power. We've discussed the resource aspect of story here; namely that all resources, including healthcare are scarce and that scarcity requires decisions to be made as to who gets what. And the "who gets what" is where power comes into play.
As a resident of the United Kingdom, Charlie was entitled to medical care paid for by the State. But when it became clear that there was very little chance for improvement with the treatment currently available, bureaucrats of the State, charged with distributing the government's scarce resources to the patients that would most benefit, came to the logical, if seemingly heartless, decision that Charlie's care must cease. Little Charlie was not a good investment for the State.
If the parents had no resources of their own to continue caring for Charlie, that would have been the end of story. But Charlie's mom and dad, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, raised nearly $2 million with which to continue fighting for their son's life by taking him to the United States for an admittedly experimental treatment. Unfortunately, as it turns out, that was not a decision Charlie's mom and dad were allowed to make.
Hearing the parents' plans, doctors and bureaucrats, empowered by the State, refused to let Charlie's be moved from the hospital. In the professional opinions of the decision-makers, the experimental treatment had no chance of success and so it wasn't worth allowing the parents to try. Imagine that - rather than just standing back and allowing the parents to remove the child from their hospital, the doctors simply refused. Met with this obstinacy, the parents had no choice but to take their case to the courts in the UK and European Union.
Over the course of the last seven months, as Charlie's condition deteriorated and his chance of any success fell, his mother and father were forced to argue why they should be allowed to use their own money to try and save the life of their own child. Again imagine that - going to a courthouse to argue in front of a judge as why you should be able to use your money to try and save your baby's life. As we know, the courts decided against the parents and in favor of the State each time, until so much time had passed that the window of opportunity for the experimental treatment to help Charlie had closed. If that wasn't bad enough, Charlie's parents weren't even allowed to have a quiet goodbye with their son at home. How dreadful. How cruel.
The question, then, is why? Charlie's parents had their own money to pay for his treatment; there would have been no additional cost to the government. Why stand in the way of that? For what reason? So that Charlie died with "dignity"? On what planet would such nonsense dispensed by government employees overrule the wishes of a child's parents? Well, apparently, on this planet. In the UK, the power of life and death rests ultimately rests not with family but with agents of the State.
How clearly now we see that Charlie did not "belong", in the normal sense of a family, to his mother and father; he belonged to the State. And when it was understood spending money on him would no longer benefit the State, they condemned Charlie to death and his parents to a lifetime of heartache. Once Charlie's parents had other options, this became nothing more than a power struggle between a young family of limited means and the government.
And the government was never going to lose.