On July 27, 2017 a judge made the final decision in the case of Charlie Gard, ordering that the infant be moved to hospice for his last days on this earth. Charlie was one of 16 known children in the world to have mitochondrial depletion syndrome. This condition is a very rare terminal illness which causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.
This decision followed the determination of the hospital that he would be better off dead. The European Court of Human Rights backed this decision. According to BBC News the court determined that further treatment would “continue to cause Charlie significant harm:”
European Court judges have now concluded it was most likely Charlie was “being exposed to continued pain, suffering and distress” and undergoing experimental treatment with “no prospects of success… would offer no benefit”.
They said the application presented by the parents was “inadmissible” and said the court’s decision was “final.”
The legal battle to protect the life of little Charlie Gard began on March 3, 2017 when a Justice from the Family Division of the High Court in London held a hearing to analyze Charlie’s case. On April 11, Justice Francis subsequently decided that the hospital could stop Charlie’s life support. On May 3, Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, appealed the decision of Justice Francis but the appeal was analyzed on May 23 and dismissed on May 25. On June 8, the parent’s appeal at the Supreme Court also failed. The family’s lawyers then appealed the case to the European Court of Human Rights on June 20. That Court refused to stop Charlie’s death at the hands of socialized medicine, despite the fact that Charlie’s parents had raised millions of dollars for experimental treatment in the United States. Multiple hospitals, including a Vatican hospital offered to take in Charlie but a High Court ruled against Charlie leaving the Great Ormond Street Hospital, instead saying he should be “allowed to die with dignity.”
“We are utterly heartbroken,” Charlie’s parents said in a June 29 Facebook post the day before Charlie was to die, “spending our last precious hours with our baby boy. We’re not allowed to choose if our son lives and we’re not allowed to choose when or where Charlie dies. We and most importantly Charlie have been massively let down throughout this whole process. Charlie will die tomorrow knowing that he was loved by thousands… thank you to everyone for all your support.”
Under British law, parental responsibility includes the right to give consent for medical treatment, according to the British Medical Association.
However, parental rights are not absolute, and in cases in which doctors and parents disagree, the courts may exercise objective judgment in a child’s best interest.
Anytime government can usurp parental rights, it is a slippery slope, but this especially rings true when a life is at stake. Even though Charlie Gard’s case was certainly a life-threatening condition, his parents still had hope that the experimental treatment offered in the United States would have helped alleviate Charlie’s suffering and give Charlie a legitimate chance at life. Sadly, Charlie was not given that chance. According to WND, in response “a team of experts on parental rights, and related child rights, is asking President Trump to get the United States out of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child:”
The group’s letter to the White House said, “The Charlie Gard situation highlights the stark difference between our national values and those of internationalists who believe that government bureaucrats and the courts should decide how children should be raised, and even whether a life is worth living.”
The HSLDA notes that the Clinton administration signed the convention, but it never was ratified by the Senate.
HSLDA’s William Estrada explained, “When courts and medical authorities in England can overrule parents’ wishes and declare it is in the best interest of a child to let him die, it’s time to redouble efforts to protect parental rights here in America.”
The letter written to Trump by HSLDA rightfully states the belief “that life is precious and that parents, not the government, know best how to protect and care for their children.”
The United States has been the leader of the free world on the issue of human rights, and this must continue. With the case of Charlie Gard, critical time was wasted in legal battles when Charlie was left languishing to die in the Great Ormond Street Hospital. If the United States ever ratifies the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, cases like Charlie’s would easily begin taking place in the United States.
“We just want some peace with our son – no hospital, no lawyers, no courts, no media, just quality time with Charlie –away from everything to say goodbye to him in the most loving way,” Yates expressed on Thursday, according to a CNN report posted by Fox 8. “Mummy and Daddy love you so much, Charlie, we always have and we always will and we are so sorry that we couldn’t save you. We had the chance, but we weren’t allowed to give you that chance. Sweet dreams, baby. Sleep tight, our beautiful little boy.”