The Odd Couple who support experimental therapy for Charlie Gard

By Dave Andrusko

Peter Singer

The proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is as often wrong as it is right. Your momentary ally will likely turn on you on the next occasion and even in the instance where you are fighting a common enemy, their rationale for doing so can easily come back to haunt you. Doesn’t mean you reject their help (likely you couldn’t, even if you wanted to ), but you do keep them at arm’s length.

I thought of that when I read an opinion piece in support of treatment for Charlie Gard from two of the most unlikely sources on the face of the planet: Julian Savulescu and Peter Singer, very well known philosophers who believe in utilitarianism with a vengeance.

There’s obviously no need to rehash Singer’s decades-long anti-life, anti-human statements. A proponent of animal rights, he has no time for imperfect human babies, born or unborn; he flatly supports infanticide. He is, as Wesley Smith has written, a eugenicist, who supports using the disabled in medical experiments and promotes health care rationing.

Savulescu is lesser know but is a worthy heir (so to speak) to Singer. He is, among other things, pro-euthanasia, firmly opposed to a physician’s right of conscience, supports palliated self starvation (giving them meds along the way), supports harvesting organs from people who are voluntarily–or not so voluntarily– euthanizing themselves, and (to name just one more) promotes the idea that “people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children”–that is, to screen embryos genetically to determine which will have “superior” moral traits.

Julian Savulescu

How in the world, you ask, could these two write an op-ed under the headline, “Charlie Gard: Why Donald Trump and the Pope are right”?  Let’s see.

The central issue, for them, is “How can you tell if life is worth living? The key disagreement is about what chance is worth taking of crossing the line to have a life worth living.”

Most bioethicists, they say (including themselves), and, of course, the London-based hospital , do not believe Charlie has a life worth living.

What tips the scale in favor of allowing the parents to move Charlie to the United States for experimental therapy? A couple of factors, it would appear.

There others who disagree, including “Dr. I”

“In March, Dr. I, now joined by others in the Vatican Hospital, argued that it would be worthwhile to treat Charlie.” (Since this essay was written, Dr. I. was identified as Dr. Michio Hirano who is going to London to evaluate Charlie next Monday and Tuesday!)

Another balancing act is the issue of “pain and suffering,” a red herring the hospital and Justice Nicholas Francis keep trotting out. To be clear, no one knows if Charlie is in pain, although the staff periodically insists they know for sure he is.

The point is that whatever his status, Charlie’s already been in it for six of his 11 months! If he is allowed to go the United States, he would undergo experimental nucleoside therapy for some three months. They write

It is a value judgement (not a scientific judgement) whether the pain of three months of intensive care (minimised by sedation and analgesia) is worth taking to gather more information about the prospect of improvement with experimental therapy

Savulescu and Singer conclude, “In the face of such reasonable disagreement, we believe that we should accede to the wishes of the parents and err on the side of a chance of life. The alternative is certain death.”

It took them 791 words to get to what ought to be obvious. The chances for improvement for Charlie are not great. But (a) the alternative is death–“certain death”– because the hospital will yank his ventilator, and (b) contrary to what the high mucky-mucks in London are saying, this is the parents’ decision to make.