Pope, President Trump tweet their support for Charlie
By Kathy Ostrowski, Policy & Research Director, Kansans for Life
In a Greek tragedy or Shakespearean play, a Deus ex machina ending is the resolution of a seemingly unresolvable situation with an unanticipated “intervention by the gods.”
In the tragic real life-and-death drama of baby Charlie Gard, facing court-supported withdrawal of hospital-administered life-support, surprising recent interventions via Twitter have been very welcome. We can only hope that support from Pope Francis and President Trump can save Chris Gard’s and Connie Yates’s little boy from a hospital that insists he should “die with dignity.”
Eleven-month-old Charlie has a rare and debilitating chromosomal condition in which his cells cannot replenish essential energy. A natural compound, orally administered, has shown some success as a treatment in the United States. Chris and Connie have been working feverishly since January to get their son to the U.S. for that alternative treatment. Over their strenuous objections, however, they had faced the court-ordered death of their son this past weekend.
But Pope Francis said on Twitter that “to defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.” The Pontiff also tweeted that he prays for them [Charlie’s family], “hoping that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end is not ignored.”
President Donald Trump tweeted, “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 Washington Examiner reported this Monday from White House media affairs director, Helen Ferre:
“Although the president himself has not spoken to the family, he does not want to pressure them in any way, members of the administration have spoken to the family in calls facilitated by the British government.”
Following the news of Vatican and American offers of support, a spokesman for the family said: “Chris and Connie are overwhelmed with emotion that President Trump and the Pope have spoken publicly of their support. Their kind words have given them so much comfort. They remain at Charlie’s bedside and his condition remains stable.”
Between April and June, rulings from the European Court of Human Rights, and three UK courts, supported the “futile care” assertion of the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) that Charlie’s very “existence” there was “inhuman” and it was in his “best interests” that life-support be discontinued. Orders to unplug his respirator and give only palliative care were actionable last Friday, but at press time Charlie is presumably still alive and the status of life-support unknown.
Months of public protests, petitions to UK officials and nearly $1.8 million financial pledges have seemed ineffectual and unable to engage the concern of mainstream media to the bullying of Charlie’s parents.
That all changed when support for their plight came this weekend from the two of the most influential voices in the world.
In addition, on Tuesday, the UK Metro news revealed that both an unnamed hospital in the US and the Vatican’s Pediatric Hospital, Bambino Gesu, have offered to treat Charlie Gard for free in order to prevent Great Ormond Street Hospital from ending his life.
These high-profile developments have initiated more and more media attention to Charlie and the fundamental question of the inviolability of parental rights.
The Daily Mail reported on the debate over Charlie Gard held on Tuesday’s Good Morning Britain TV show, featuring Arturo Estopinan, a Congressional aide from Baltimore.
Estopinan said his son would be dead now if they had lived in the UK. Arturino, Jr. was given two months to live in 2012 when he was immobile, except his eyes. Now six years later, after the U.S. oral treatment, he is “a happy boy” who “can move his hands, fingers, feet and arms.”
Estopinan and his wife Olga have become close friends of Chris and Connie since their son has a condition similar to Charlie’s and was aided by the same innovative oral medication sought for Charlie.
On the show, Estopinan was opposed by a British physician asserted that “to extend Charlie’s life will create more suffering…sometimes real parental love is letting go.”
Mr. Estopinan strongly objected, saying, “What right do you have to play God?… sir, your position is 100% wrong…my son is a happy boy…on a ventilator five years…and much improved from his [immobile] condition.”
Also in solidarity with the Gard family is Terri Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler, whose Life & Hope Foundation works to support the medically fragile. He said, “At issue is whether [Great Britain’s system of] universal healthcare means that bureaucrats and judges will determine appropriate treatment, or whether parents like Charlie’s with the energy, finances, and physicians to care for their child will be allowed to do so.”
Bioethics author Wesley J. Smith also strongly criticized the UK’s position against Charlie as “an act of bioethical aggression that will extend futile-care controversies, creating a duty to die at the time and place of doctors’ choosing. And that raises a crucial liberty question: Whose baby is Charlie Gard? His parents’? Or are sick babies— and others facing futile-care impositions— ultimately owned by the hospital and the state?”
Estopinan believes that President Trump has “saved” Charlie by offering him free care. It is yet to be seen, however, whether modern deus ex machina interventions can rescue Charlie from the UK government’s death grip.