Charlie Gard, Requiem in Pace

There was a time not so long ago when courts would intervene if parents refused to get medical help for a gravely ill minor child. Now, in England, we have the case of Charlie Gard. In that case the courts intervened to prevent the child’s parents from obtaining medical help in the form of an experimental treatment, even as their son lingered on the verge of death. This, even though the parents raised the substantial funds needed to treat him.


The British courts, backed by the badly misnamed European court of human rights, held that children have rights independent of their parents, and as a result hired a guardian to protect the 11-month-old boy’s right to die—against his parents’ wishes. The court refused to release the boy to the parents’ custody to seek treatment, ruling his interests would be best served by dying. Now after 4 months of court enforced stalling, the American doctor who had agreed to provide the treatment says that the child’s condition has deteriorated to the point where there is nothing he can do.


The parents have dropped their court action and have asked the court to allow Charlie to die at home. The court is considering the request.


Welcome to the single payer system.


When government says it will provide health care what it really means is that government will use its police power to decide who will and who will not receive treatment. They euphemistically call it cost containment. And so individuals and families will not be the ones to decide to let nature take its course. Nor does it mean that individuals and families will decide what constitutes taking “extraordinary measures” to prolong life. The calculus will be the state’s. It no longer belongs to the individual or the family.


It means that government, operating through a bureaucracy staffed by presumed experts, will decide who gets treatment and who does not; whose life is worthwhile and whose is not; who will live and who will die. Those decisions will inevitably favor the powerful and politically well connected. Like Charlie Gard and his family, individuals and their families will have lost agency over their own lives. Because in the Progressive Administrative state, rights come from government, they do not precede it, nor are they independent of it. Individual rights, including the right to life, are subordinated to the will of the state, not the other way around.

Remember, Charlie Gard’s parents raised the funds to pay for medical help for their son. And still the state asserted its police power to retain custody of the child, ruling that it was in Charlie’s best interest to die. The parents had no say.

By all accounts it is very unlikely that, in the end, the treatment sought by the parents would have changed the outcome. That is not the point. The decision rightly belonged with the parents. And the state just took it away. Because when push comes to shove, that’s how the Progressive Administrative state works.

Charlie Gard, RIP.



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