It has become an international story. Charlie Gard is a seriously ill infant in the United Kingdom, who has been denied the opportunity to go to the United States to receive experimental treatment for a genetic condition.
His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, petitioned the Great Ormond Street Hospital, the national hospital system, the National Health Service and the European Court of Human Rights for approval to take their child abroad for these treatments.
Both the European Court and the National Health Service have denied the Gards permission to seek these treatments on the grounds that it was in the infant’s best interest that life support be withdrawn.
Charlie Gard was born in August 2016 with a genetic condition known as infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, or MDDS, per The Washington Post. Doctors in the United States have said they have a treatment that gives him a 10 percent chance at survival.
The parents raised the equivalent of $1.6 million dollars through crowd funding to pay for the trip and the treatment. They’ve said if the money can’t be used for the treatment, they will donate it to a charity that focuses on Charlie’s genetic condition.
Beyond the story of Charlie Gard is one of how society – and in particular the media – has viewed this case. The coverage from the left, which favors more government involvement in health care, has made the case against it.
Radically leftist Slate, for instance, criticized the political Right in America for using this case to make political points about nationalized medicine.
“The question of what a society owes its most vulnerable citizens could also point directly to a moral argument for a robust, protective health-care system that takes dignified care of every citizen, not just those who can afford it,” Slate wrote, apparently unaware of the irony behind its words.
The UK has a robust, protective health-care system that it views as taking dignified care of every citizen, not just those who can afford it. And that system wants to condemn an 11-month-old boy to death when it would cost it nothing – it would, in fact, save money for the National Health Service, because he would be removed from its hospital – to let his family seek these alternative treatments.
Not only is the health service robust and protective, it’s also considerate. “Charlie Gard parents given more time to say goodbye to terminally ill son,” read a BBC headline.
But it was the robust and protective and considerate National Health Service that to this day stands ready to extend the “right to die” to an infant incapable of making such judgments and of seeing this is the humane approach.
The task of truly being robust and protective and considerate has fallen to a country that does not have a national health service and that, indeed, if Congress approves a measure now working its way through the Senate, would move even further from the concept.
It has been President Trump, who campaigned on blowing up the socialist health care initiatives passed under the previous president, who has come to the rescue. “If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so,” the president tweeted.
And it has been Pope Francis, who, after waffling early on the controversy, has found his pro-life voice and also offered to help. “To defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all,” the Pope said.
The New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center are working with the Trump White House and the Gard family on treatment options, and the Vatican said its hospital doors are open to the Gards. Pope Francis is also considering issuing a passport for the infant to travel to the Vatican for treatment and bypass some of the legal hurdles facing the family.
And none of that has happened because of the robust and protective and considerate National Health Service in the UK. The people there still want Charlie Gard to exercise his right to die.