Sanctity of Life


July 7, 2017

Hospital Reconsiders Charlie Gard Case

The Great Ormond Street Hospital just switched sides on the infamous Charlie Gard case after three international leaders including the Pope, the U.S. President, and the UK Prime Minister spoke out. According to the BBC, the hospital, which originally told Chris Gard and Connie Yates that their son’s life support would soon be turned off, has examined evidence in favor of his possible treatment and want to give Charlie a chance. This adds yet another twist to the case Christians everywhere have been following.

Reportedly, doctors at the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) that believed the treatment could work for Charlie have re-examined the data about the treatment and found it could have a greater chance of healing Charlie than previously thought. They have now applied for a new hearing, this time to support Charlie’s treatment. “We believe, in common with Charlie’s parents, it is right to explore this evidence,” a hospital spokesman told BBC.

Last week, UK Member of Parliament Seema Malthora was asked at Prime Minister’s Questions whether there was “any room for discretion within the court rulings” for Great Ormond Street Hospital to allow little Charlie to leave. “I am confident that GOSH have and always will consider any offers of new information that has come forward for the wellbeing of a desperately ill child,” Malthora responded. “It’s an unimaginable position to be in…. I know no doctor wants to be in the terrible position where they have to make such heartbreaking decisions.”

The hospital’s statement is wonderful news for those who have been following the case in hopes of his recovery. And in light of it, it is interesting to reflect back on Archbishop Paglia’s statement last week that “we do, sometimes, however, have to recognize the limitations of what can be done.” We should also be horrified at the tyranny of powerful individuals who become politically involved in such cases without knowing all of the facts—as UK Prime Minister Theresa May did yesterday. Issues have changed a bit since my blog post from Monday when I argued for the need for the Catholic Church to take a stronger stand for Charlie. Thankfully, now the Church seems to be supporting Charlie’s parents as much as possible—but the UK’s Prime Minister has not, at least since we last heard from her.

May came out siding with the Great Ormond Street Hospital against Charlie’s parents, who took the media and hearts around the world captive last week when his parents were denied the opportunity to pursue treatment for his rare disease. Despite the availability of treatment elsewhere for Charlie, May added further support for the courts’ decision that Charlie should die in his current UK hospital.

Meanwhile, the Independent reported that President Trump may raise the issue with May at the G20 summit.

President Trump tweeted about his support for Charlie on Monday.

“If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.”

The President’s tweet came on the heels of the Pope’s statement last week. The statement was viewed as unhelpful by some but brought much-needed international attention to the case. It is likely the president said something as a result of the Pope’s involvement.

Almost immediately following the President’s tweet, it was reported that a U.S. hospital, which could not be named “for legal reasons,” according to White House Spokeswoman Sanders, had offered to keep Charlie on life support free of charge if the transfer could somehow be safely made. Just two hours after President Trump’s tweet Jay Sekulow, the Chief Council of the ACLJ, a law firm dedicated to defending religious liberty and the right to life, tweeted that they were ready to come to Charlie’s aid:

The U.S. wasn’t the only place to offer Charlie a life support machine—the “Pope’s Hospital” also tweeted their desire to keep them if they had the means to transfer him. This was a move in the right direction for the Catholic Church since Monday. Then things changed drastically when it was reported that the American hospital may actually be able to transfer treatment to Charlie.

The future will tell if President Trump will be able to, or will even have to, try to help Charlie’s case. White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders clarified to The Guardian, “Our goal is not to pressure but simply to be helpful.”

Theresa May, however, made a decision to back the doctors and to pressure them to abide by the ruling of the courts—that he should be taken off life support. It is understandable that May sided with the law. The sad part is the hard line the law took. It left no room for Charlie’s parents to seek his welfare despite the fact he could potentially live out the rest of the days of his short life with his parents by his side. His life still has value, and that value is something the courts took lightly and ultimately decided against. That is why the hospital’s new appeal is so important.

Charlie’s life is at stake, the Great Ormond Street Hospital misread the situation, and two courts and the Prime Minister have added to the fray. This was all done against the boy’s parents, who simply held out hope. Now they are finding that they may have been wrong, and Charlie’s outcome is once again left up to a legal case—a case he previously lost, and a ruling that was backed by the UK Prime Minister.

UK Member of Parliament Malthora is right that decisions must be made, but is it really the courts who must make them, and must it really be this “heartbreaking”? The Charlie Gard case is far from over but already offers many lessons, not the least of which is the continued influence that religious figures like the Pope retain in society. These voices can serve as the moral conscience for civil authorities.

For his parents, Chris and Connie, the situation has turned from tragic to hypocritical, but at least it is progress. It is also an answer to many prayers. Christians around the world continue to watch, wait on, and pray for the fate of Charlie Gard.

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