What did we learn from today’s hearing to decide the fate of Charlie Gard?

By Dave Andrusko

Charlie Gard

Charlie Gard

When I look at the expression on Chris Gard’s face–the flashing eyes, the jaw set, determination criss-crossed with resolution to push ahead– it struck me I’d seen that look before.

It was me, 40 years ago when I fought a recalcitrant, know-it-all medical bureaucracy that in its infinite wisdom would have doomed a close relative of mine. My relative won because (and only because) I was able to secure the intervention of an outside party, a powerful elected official, who couldn’t be ignored.

It was a lesson I would never forget. I had vigorously campaigned for a rival of his but he put that aside when he saw injustice.

So far there are no established centers of power willing to help Chris Gard and Connie Yates, the parents, of Charlie Gard. At least not in Great Britain. Thanks be to Pope Francis, President Donald Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence who have pledged their support for Chris and Connie.

Kathy Ostrowski has provided NRL News Today readers with a very nice summary of what took place this afternoon in Justice Nicholas Francis’s courtroom. Here are a few additional thoughts.

For reasons known only to the Justice, he is a big hurry to get Charlie’s ventilator disconnected. “Justice Francis asked doctors to confer on Friday, and he said he hoped to issue a decision early next week,” the New York Times’ Dan Bilefsky reported.

“’Time is not on our side,’ he said.”

Perhaps it’s his clear impatience that the case had been (as supporters of his death sentence framed it) “politicized.” By politicized, they meant that Connie and Chris refused to accept the decree handed down by Justice Francis. And that others refused to kowtow to him.

Surely Justice Francis’ impatience has been sharpened by a clear sense of cultural superiority. As Justice Francis said of “Dr. I.,” who argued that Charlie could benefit from nucleoside therapy,

Dr. I. who has not had the opportunity of examining Charlie, and who operates in what has been referred to as a slightly different culture in the United States where anything would be tried …

(All the experts are unnamed, thanks to Justice Francis’ gag order –they call it something nicer in Great Britain.)

Justice Francis all but says that those cowboys over in the United States–well, they’ll go to any extreme to save 11-month-old infant whose quality of life Justice Francis, the hospital, and the British Medical Establishment “know” is not worth living

Were Charlie able to speak for himself, he would want to “die with dignity.” To disagree is to be on the wrong side of “expertise.”

Only the expertise is not only on the side of Justice Francis’ and the London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), and the likes of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Others disagree.

The clear inference–when it is not stated flatly–is that Dr. I. is grasping at straws. Prior to today’s testimony (via video conferencing), he was not nearly as optimistic back in April.

However he had an answer, according to the AP:

“We have a much better understanding of the data,” the doctor testified, saying the information has emerged in the time since Justices first rejected the parents’ bid to take him to America.

Again, no one is saying that Charlie will be “cured.” No one says that someday he will be sitting in a courtroom agreeing that Justices know better than parents what is best for their own children.

Which brings us to one other point which was red-flagged today in stories I read but not previously: more cultural one-up-manship. It’s a long quote but well worth reading:

British Justices are tasked to intervene when families and doctors disagree on the care of people unable to speak for themselves. The rights of the child take primacy, with the courts weighing issues such as whether a child is suffering and how much benefit a proposed treatment might produce.

“Unlike the U.S.A., English law is focused on the protection of children’s rights,” said Jonathan Montgomery, professor of health care law at University College London. “The U.S.A. is the only country in the world that is not party to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child; it does not recognize that children have rights independent of their parents.”

Montgomery said that while it was right to consider the views of Charlie’s parents, the court will not make a determination on this basis.

“This case is about Charlie’s rights and what the evidence tells us that they require,” he said. “That will be the only consideration of the Justice at the hearing.”

Take that, U.S. of A. We, the enlightened, know what is best for your child. Of course the “right” that are being exercised is the right to be made dead.

Charlie’s case should also be seen in a wider context: the madcap drive in places like the Netherlands and Belgium to extend the “right” to die to children–with the lowest age (if there is any minimum at all) dropping every time you blink an eye.

Charlie’s “right to die with dignity”–conveniently exercised for him by Justice Francis and GOSH–supersedes parental love and concern and devotion (in April, Justice Francis acknowledged that Connie had already spent 3,200 hours with Charlie) and their conclusion that Charlie ought to have the opportunity to be treated.

So what if “Charlie’s parents have clearly dedicated their lives to him from the moment that he was born,” as Justice Francis wrote back in April. We know best.

The Justice seems impervious, locked into what he ruled three months ago.

Keep Charlie and Connie and Chris in your prayers.

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