BreakPoint: Charlie Gard’s Death Sentence

The Consequences of Usurping Parental Rights

Can the government tell you when and where your child will die? For one couple in the U.K., the answer is “yes.” This is a chilling precedent.

An incredibly complicated and heartbreaking life-and-death medical case has sparked an international debate: It’s the case of little Charlie Gard.

Charlie suffers from an extremely rare and deadly genetic disorder called Mitochondrial DNA Depletion Syndrome. Mitochondria “are structures within cells that convert the energy from food into a form that cells can use.” Because of his depletion of mitochondrial DNA, Charlie’s muscles and organs are failing. He’s unconscious and cannot breathe on his own. From all reports, he’s in the terminal stages of a disease for which there is no known cure.

Charlie’s parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have raised a million and a half dollars in private donations to take him to America for an experimental treatment. They appear under no illusion that the treatment will work, but they do want to exhaust every possibility.

But doctors at Britain’s Great Ormond Street Hospital have decided that Charlie’s condition is hopeless, and that he should be left to die. Britain’s High Court agreed, and the European Court of Human rights refused to intervene after Charlie’s parents appealed. The doctors now have the legal go-ahead to take Charlie off life support.

Now world reaction has been decidedly on the side of Charlie’s parents. After some initial confusion within the Vatican, the Vatican’s pediatric hospital offered to take care of Charlie, as has at least one American hospital. Even President Trump tweeted over the weekend, “If we can help little #CharlieGard, … we would be delighted to do so.”

As I record this broadcast, these offers have all fallen on deaf ears. The hospital refuses to let Charlie travel or even die at home with his parents. They’ve kept him on life support to give Charlie and his parents just a little more time together.

Those are the facts as I understand them. But now here’s why this case is so important, both for the sake of Charlie and his family, and for our civilization.

First, the government should have no role in dictating when and where a baby should die, and whether his parents can seek additional treatment options. The decision by the British High Court is an appalling overreach, and it sets a very dangerous precedent. In worldview terms, the government is well beyond its sphere of sovereignty, gobbling up authority that rightfully belongs to the family and to the church.

Second Peter clarifies that the civil authorities are ordained by God to reward good and punish evil. Great Ormond Street Hospital and the British and international courts have determined it’s time for little Charlie to die, regardless of how many people around the world want to help him by paying for transportation and additional treatment. They won’t even allow him to die at home. They’ve effectively asserted ownership over this little boy and his life. This is unambiguously wrong.

And the facts don’t support the European Court of Human Rights’ claim that undergoing experimental treatment would expose Charlie to “continued pain, suffering and distress.” As one official at the hospital where he’s being cared for admitted, doctors “don’t know whether he suffers pain.”

And, we should note, the British government is in this position of superseded authority largely because of the breakdown of the family. Courts and officials there are accustomed to playing mom, dad, even sometimes God. And we’re not that far behind here in the United States.

But that doesn’t mean the government has the right to make the kinds of life-and-death decisions that Charlie’s parents and others are called to make, nor is it best equipped to navigate the unique challenges of such a difficult case. When it comes to this little life, by overstepping, hospital officials and judges have handed down a death sentence that isn’t theirs to render.


Charlie Gard’s Death Sentence: The Consequences of Usurping Parental Rights

The case of Charlie Gard is tragic and complex, nonetheless, the hospital and European courts have overstepped their bounds. Pray for Charlie and his family, and for all parents facing difficult choices and pressures as they care for their children.


On the Charlie Gard case, the Church needs to be clear and prophetic
  • Charles C. Camosy | | July 3, 2017
What is mitochondrial DNA?
  • Genetics Home Reference
Mitochondrial DNA Depletion Syndrome
  • Johns Hopkins University

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  • Just one of many voices

    Wow, brings a chill to the bones!

    Jesus, please do a miracle for Charlie and his family.

  • Calling It Like It Is

    George Orwell would have been so proud of Britain’s High Court… This could well have been a vignette in his classic “1984” showing Big Brother doing his best to subordinate its subjects.

  • Phoenix1977

    The only thing I agree with is this case should never have been brought in front of the courts. But don’t forget it were Charlie’s parents that went to court, not the hospital. In fact, the hospital never had to go to court because the doctors in Great Ormond Street Hospital were in their rights to switch off the life support at any moment. Let me explain.

    As a patient, or he patient’s loved ones, you cannot force a doctor to give you a specific treatment. At least, that’s the situation in most European countries, including the UK. And life support, as well as preparing a patient for medical transport and facilitating that transport, is a medical treatment. If a doctor sees no benefit from a treatment, whatever treatment that might be, it’s well within his/her rights (and even his duty) to deny that treatment.
    Even more, whenever a medical treatment becomes pointless because there is no chance for recovery or even improvement, a doctor is forbidden (again, in Europe) to continue treatment. Now I don’t know enough of either the disease little Charlie suffers from or his particular condition but apparently his doctors see no chance of improvement, making further medical treatment unethical and even criminal.

    Now there is an experimental treatment in the US. Like I said, I don’t know enough about the disease but “experimental” for patients and their loved ones equals “a last shimmer of hope”. I would call it “clamping on straws” and that is simply unfair, both to the patient and their loved ones. Those experimental treatments hardly ever deliver what is held in front of the patient: a miracle. Because that is what patients with metastasized cancer or neuro-degenerative diseases or rare genetic conditions need. And in medicine we don’t deal in miracles; we deal in cold hard facts. And the fact is Charlie Gard is going to die. And he either dies now or he dies in a few months when the experimental treatment is completed and brought him absolutely nothing. At best he will never experience anything of those treatments but more likely he will suffer side-effects which will decrease his already non-existent quality of life even further.

    So the doctors were well within their rights to decide to switch off life support. It’s purely a medical decision, plain and simple. The fact that we doctors discuss this with patients and/or their loved ones is purely a formality. For the patient and the loved ones to feel they were involved in the decision. But the decision has already been made and all that remains to be done if to convince the loved ones of a patient. And apparently that went wrong here.
    There is a perfectly good reason why such a decision should not be with the parents of a boy like Charlie. Who on earth would feel okay with giving up their son or daughter after such a long struggle for their lives? Parents aren’t objective in these matters nor are they supposed to be. I would be very concerned for rational parents in a case like this. That’s why doctors need to be the objective ones here. So the parents can be emotional and don’t have to worry whether or not they have failed their son.
    I have been involved in quite a few cases like this (although in my case it almost always involved lung cancer) and I was okay with the patient’s loved ones being angry with me, screaming at me and even hating me. Because I was the cold-blooded SoB who decided further treatment was no longer an option. I was the bastard who told them their loved one was going to die and going to die soon. And most of the time those emotions die down in a couple of hours or days and you reach an understanding. And sometimes you don’t, like with Charlie Gard. And in those cases it’s even more important, as a medical professional, to make sure you are making the decisions where discontinuation of treatment is involved and no one else.

    The only court that got it right in Charlie Gard’s case is the European Court of Human Rights by stating they were not qualified to rule on this case. That’s what the courts in the UK should have done immediately. The courts in the UK should have stated immediately this is a medical case where a medical decision is being made, and not a legal case.

    What happens to Charlie Gard is a tragedy. And it would remain a tragedy, no matter if he dies today in Great Ormond Street Hospital or next week in his own bed or in 4 months in the US after the experimental treatment failed or even caused his death due to complications. Charlie’s parents need help to deal with their grief and guidance in how to live on without Charlie. The last thing they need are last straws or half the world interfering with Charlie’s medical case, for the sole purpose of scoring some points like people like Donald Trump.

  • Nancy

    I was once told by a lawyer that my children belonged to society, not me. That was back in the 1990s. That was disturbing !

  • Dexter L. Wilson

    You can definitely see the difference from a Central Government that controls you where we in America are the Government.