The dangers of government-controlled medical decisions

The dangers of government-controlled medical decisions

The dangers of government-controlled medical decisions
July 13
09:00 2017

By The Editorial Board

It has been said for years that a parent’s biggest fear is losing a child. If governments are unwilling to help citizens during the springtime of their lives, those parental fears will persist with justification.

Such is the case with Connie Yates and Chris Gard, whose 11-month-old son Charlie is diagnosed with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. According to The Sun, Charlie is likely “one of 16 people” to ever have the condition, as mitochondrial failure leads to organ damage and death. In Charlie’s case, life support machines at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital – “the leading children’s hospital” in the United Kingdom – are keeping him alive as his parents fight for his rights to be treated.

The reason this British situation has made international headlines is due to the insensitivity of the couple’s government. According to The Guardian, the hospital doctors claimed Charlie’s condition to be “incurable” and lobbied against treatment, while his parents are refusing their wish to turn off his life support. Going against the Courts of England and Wales – who all ruled in the hospital’s favor from April 11 to June 27 – the couple raised over $1.6 million to pay for an unprecedented nucleoside therapy in the United States.

Thanks to international attention, particularly from Italian and American experts saying they’re “prepared to treat the child,” the couple has returned to the High Court to be granted medical travel rights.

The amount of impedance against this family’s wishes is more alarming than not. With the support of Pope Francis and the Vatican, it appears virtually everyone except Charlie’s own countrymen are in his defense. Even President Donald Trump expressed interest in aiding the terminally ill child, and is “reportedly planning to confront” British Prime Minister Theresa May about it since she ardently supports Grand Ormond’s choice.

The main issue with British politicians wagering Charlie’s life is that their decision seems solely rooted in what one hospital believes, rather than letting the parents have a say. Alec Buchanan, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University, wrote in 2004 that U.S., Canadian and British laws require a patient’s refusal of treatment to be honored “unless they can be shown [to not] be legally competent.”

Considering Charlie is too young to verbally refuse treatment, the situation naturally falls on his parents. Therefore, it’s completely unlawful for British courts to rule against them in the first place. The couple’s fundraising is perfect proof of their legal competence, and the United Kingdom’s bizarre prevention of medicinal travel to America is startlingly similar to California’s recent travel ban. Except in this case, the life of a human being is currently held in the crossfire.

Fortunately in regards to truth, Charlie’s parents are aware that a fatal outcome is still probable. According to BBC News, Chris Gard has stated that he would turn off life support after “the first week of treatment [if Charlie] started suffering” again. These parents simply want their son to have a fighting chance, and who is anyone, especially a government, to cessate their human rights and honest hope?

The human experience is fully built upon helping others, especially when we have the power to do so. We hope the British courts can reverse their decision – if nothing else – to keep medical ethics in the volition of our world’s citizens.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

About Author

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

A fan of pop culture, Preston loves everything from political think pieces to action blockbusters. He is also the Opinion Editor of the NT Daily and an Integrative Studies senior at UNT.

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