In all likelihood, the controversy surrounding the 11-month-old baby boy named Charlie Gard has come across your newsfeed before today.
To recap a bit, this baby who is obviously adored by his parents was born seemingly normal at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital in October. However, shortly after his first breath of life, he began suffering the effects of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, which is an extremely rare, progressive genetic disease that weakens the muscles and damages the brain.
Charlie has since become a global phenomenon when the British hospital refused to provide the treatment needed to save the baby’s life. News pundits have since attacked the political situation surrounding the event. But where should Christians stand on the issue?
First, let’s examine the facts.
More About the Disease
Mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome is so rare that only 16 children have been diagnosed worldwide. It affects the body by altering the way DNA converts energy from food into a form that can be properly utilized by cells.
This means the body’s tissues and organs don’t get the energy they need to remain functional. The end result is irreversible brain damage. Treatment usually involves only symptom management. Life expectancy from onset of symptoms is anywhere from three months to 12 years.
This story would simply be a sad tale of one baby who was diagnosed with a rare disease. Although unfortunate, this wouldn’t constitute international attention. However, the fact that the hospital wants to pull the baby off life support even though the child’s parents are begging for them to wait does.
The case went all the way to the Family Division of the High Court in April where the judge ruled, “It is in Charlie’s best interests for artificial ventilation to be withdrawn.”
The Crucial Issue
The most controversial part of this case is the fact that the court is ruling against the child’s parents. Justice Francis, who made the ruling, said the following about the situation:
“Some people may ask why the court has any function in this process; why can the parents not make this decision on their own? The answer is that, although the parents have parental responsibility, overriding control is vested in the court exercising its independent and objective judgment in the child’s best interests. The Great Ormond Street Hospital has made an application and it is my duty to rule on it, given that the parents and the hospital cannot agree on the best way forward.”
The parents have since appealed this ruling, but haven’t found anyone who would overrule the decision as of yet.
Last Ditch Effort
On Thursday, the parents appeared at the Royals Courts of Justice for what might prove to be their last chance at getting their voices heard.
It’s important to note that not only do Charlie’s parents want him to remain on life support, they want him to be moved out of the UK for an experimental treatment in America. According to a New York-based expert who testified during court via video link, the experimental drug the parents seek has between 11 to 56% chance of helping the baby. This expert also said he didn’t see any evidence it would hurt Charlie to remain on life support, because he didn’t seem to be in pain.
The baby’s parents walked out at one point during the tense hearing, presumably because the feelings weren’t being understood. They returned and the session was eventually adjourned. A new hearing was set for Friday afternoon.
America is Willing and Ready to Help
Both Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the New York Presbyterian Hospital say they will willingly take in Charlie and treat him if all the legal hurdles are cleared, and they receive approval from the FDA to give the experimental treatment.
The professionals at GOSH (where Charlie is presently) believe they are doing what’s best for little Charlie by letting him die in peace. They feel, due to his condition, that he might in pain or suffering needlessly while on life support.
In fact, they feel they are fighting for Charlie too in a way and refer to him as “a beautiful, tiny baby afflicted by one of the cruelest of disease.” Others around the world have come to the parent’s defense and feel they should be able to make the call regarding life support, not the hospital, court or anyone else.
President Donald Trump and Pope Francis have both weighed in on the decision, and are in support of keeping the baby on life support and giving him a chance to receive a possible life-changing treatment. The child’s parents also received some 350,000 signatures from all over the world that they gave the hospital, demanding they be allowed to travel for the experimental treatment. This action was blocked by the High Court on June 30th.
What Christians Should Take Away
Admittedly, whether to remove life support or not is an extremely difficult dilemma for the parents of Charlie Gard. However, every parent can likely relate to their willingness to fight for the life of their child. If nothing else, hopefully, this case can be used to further focus on the importance of all life, even when that life is too young to speak for themselves.
To believe in God is to acknowledge that life is sacred – a gift of the highest order that must be protected at all costs. Because of this, Christians should stand together to support the parents of Charlie Gard, and demand the baby receive possible life-saving treatment in the United States.
~ 1776 Christian