In the tragic case of Charlie Gard, state hospital staff and state judges arrogantly assumed they could do a better job than his parents of acting as the substitute for his reasoning mind. The choices they made on his behalf and what Charlie’s parents wanted to do on his behalf show that the state was wrong.
By forcing Charlie’s parents to act according to the opinions of doctors on the experimental treatment available in the US, the state effectively forced Charlie himself, as a human being, to forgo any chance, however slim, of an existence worthy of one. It’s hard to imagine a more awful thing to do to someone whom fate has treated so cruelly.
Charlie’s situation is the ultimate example of having nothing to lose and everything to gain, and yet he was forced by the law to stick with what he had: nothing. The purpose of the law is to protect life and property, but in this case, the force of law was used to deny an incredibly unfortunate human being any chance whatsoever of surviving against all the odds. That cannot be right. It shouldn’t be possible in a free and peaceful society to use legal compulsion in such a way.
If he had been an adult of sound mind, can there be any doubt that Charlie would have chosen to undergo the experimental treatment, however slim its chances of success? Of course he would. He wouldn’t think twice. He surely would have had no hesitation in trading a little more comfort in his doomed state for the chance, however slim, of a real life.
All throughout this tragic episode, it seems to me that the one thought that has guided the thinking and decisions of Charlie’s parents is: what would Charlie want? The same cannot be said of the state hospital staff and state judges involved in Charlie’s case. Their decisions and actions show as much.
What accounts for the difference is the fact that Charlie’s parents have a bond with Charlie that no one else has. His mother and father, who seem to be decent people, have a deep emotional connection with Charlie, which has the effect of making them the best people to act as the substitute for the reasoning mind and human will of Charlie. Charlie’s suffering is literally their suffering.
Charlie was dying, but to his parents, it felt like they were. They felt his will to live. His fight for life felt like theirs. On a genetic level, Charlie and his parents were one and the same entity. His life was effectively their life. His death was their death, or at least it felt that way to his parents.
Every choice they made and wanted to act upon has shown this. They wanted to take Charlie for the experimental treatment and they raised the huge sum of money to make it possible. They wanted Charlie to die at home with his parents. Both decisions that, surely, Charlie would have made himself if he could have done.
Charlie’s parents suffered all the sadness, fear, frustration and anger that Charlie would have suffered if he was an adult. This, and that they are decent people is what made them the highest authority over their son and the best people to make decisions on his behalf. I’m sure hospital staff and judges felt great empathy with Charlie and his parents, but that’s not the same thing.
They can do that which for Charlie’s parents was impossible. They can eventually forget about it. At some point, the sadness they feel will drift away. They will sleep and life will seem okay when they wake up in the morning. It wasn’t their baby that was dying. Which is why their choices were ones which Charlie himself would never have made if he had been capable.
It seems to me that, ultimately, Charlie’s parents and Charlie were forced to do what was emotionally best for hospital staff, who couldn’t bear the thought of Charlie experiencing any amount of avoidable suffering (regardless of any potential gains from doing so). The staff at Great Ormond Street hospital couldn’t resist the temptation of using the brute force of the law to avoid feeling the sadness they would have felt had Charlie Gard been removed from their care.
It seems like they believed they could achieve the most ethical outcome despite the fact they do not and can’t possibly have the emotional bond that Charlie’s parents have with Charlie and thus have different incentives and valuations. That is hubris. That is why the state failed to be a better parent to Charlie. And that is why the heartache and despair of Charlie’s parents was intensified.
As medical professionals, they should understand the parent-child bond more than anyone and they should respect the rights of parents more than anyone. I’m sure they knew that resorting to the law and imposing their will upon Charlie’s parents would cause them agony and untold frustration. I’m sure they knew it would amount to emotionally torturing two people whom fate has already treated so cruelly. But they were unable to resist the temptation of using state power (force) to make sure Charlie Gard died in the manner they preferred. For shame.
But the hospital’s managers aren’t entirely to blame. It shouldn’t be a legal possibility for medical professionals to impose their will upon patients of sound mind or on the individuals who are the rightful authorities over infant patients. Moreover, socialised health care leads doctors and nurses to develop a socialist mindset, which leads them to stop thinking of people as individuals with the right to act according to their own will and instead think of them as means to a collective end.
State power over health care and state power over individuals combined to make it legally possible for the hospital staff to impose their will upon Charlie’s parents and Charlie. And that is why the Charlie Gard case was a travesty of virtue. Had Great Ormond Street hospital allowed Charlie to be taken away to undergo experimental treatment, then a happy ending would have at least been possible; it just might have turned out to be the story of a baby’s miraculous survival achieved by the wonders of modern medical science. It probably wouldn’t have, but at least Charlie’s parents could have lived with the comforting thought that they tried everything to save him.
For the whole of his tragically short life, Charlie Gard, was effectively under state ownership. The state (people acting under state authority) denied and usurped the authority of his parents and showed no respect for them as human beings. The state never allowed Charlie’s parents to be his parents and denied them even the smallest of comforts in the last days of their son’s life.
Charlie Gard was forced let go of life in the manner Authority wanted him to, not in the way his parents wanted him to and the way he would have chosen to. From the perspective of individual liberty, this can only be considered a tragedy of statism.
The case of Charlie Gard has laid bare the very essence of the state: institutionalised inhumanity. The biggest single problem facing humanity everywhere today is that a state sits at the core of every major society on Earth, and they are growing more powerful all the time.