Government crosses the line when it comes to child’s death

Published 9:40 pm Friday, June 30, 2017

The story of baby Charlie Gard is heart-wrenching and terrifying. The 10-month-old from London has a rare genetic condition that left him on life support. He is unable to breath without help and has brain damage.

His parents have fought to keep him on life support, as well as bring him to the U.S. for an experimental treatment. But neither was allowed to happen.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the hospital didn’t have to keep Charlie on life support, despite the pleas of his parents. A judge ruled that death was in Charlie’s best interest.

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“We’re making precious memories that we can treasure forever with very heavy hearts. Please respect our privacy while we prepare to say the final goodbye to our son Charlie,” his parents said in a statement.

In a cruel twist, the parents were not allowed to take their baby home to die despite being told otherwise, according to media reports.

In what world do we live in where a court feels it’s in a better position than the child’s parents to make end of life decisions? How can a parent not have a say in how their baby’s healthcare is handled? How can a court — and hospital — allow Charlie to die when his parents are not in agreement that it’s in his best interest? These parents have not been found to be unfit, or abusive or neglectful. By all accounts, they are loving and caring parents.

The court believes it is being compassionate, I’m sure. But a judge did not give birth to Charlie, comfort him for months and watch him struggle to live. A court does not have the unbreakable bond that a parent has with a child. Charlie’s doctors do not know the fullness of pain that comes with watching Charlie die — only his parents do.

And only his parents should decide what happens to Charlie.

The legal basis for the court’s decision is that the rights of the child should take precedence over the rights of parents. While that sounds perfectly logical, it’s flawed in its execution. Obviously, there’s no way to know what Charlie would want in this situation or if he would invoke any rights, but his parents are in the best position to make decisions for when or if he is allowed to die.

If the government can decide whether a 10-month-old with a rare genetic disorder is allowed to live or die, what stops it from applying the same logic to other cases? Will other children with less severe conditions face the same “compassion” from the state? Will their parents’ wishes be ignored because a judge feels differently? It’s a slippery slope that leads to death.

Charlie’s court-approved death is a symptom of the larger problem of society’s devaluation of life. Unfortunately, life that is seen as inconvenient or unworthy or problematic or too fragile is also seen as not worthy of preserving. And we are all worse off because of it.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at