What the Charlie Gard Case Was NEVER About

In civilization’s ongoing battle against the advance of progressive authoritarianism, the story of Charlie Gard — may he rest in peace — is an object lesson in the danger of unclear principles, and the value of clear ones. The defenders of the despotism of socialized medicine have a vested interest in trying to persuade you that the Charlie Gard case is at its core a medical issue. It is not, and it never was. It is an issue of individual liberty vs. the tyrannical State.

To join an argument without understanding one’s own position, right down to its grounding principles, is to leave yourself open to confusion and insecurity when confronted with the pseudo-logic of opponents who speak with a self-assurance that may shake your confidence — unless you can quickly identify how they are misrepresenting the issue, thereby rendering their bluster impotent and easily dismissible. 

I have written numerous articles about this awful case, including several at my main haunt when I dare to poke my head out from my relatively benign damnation here in Limbo, namely American Thinker. Invariably, the readers’ comments on those American Thinker pieces will include many — even apart from the obvious paid trolls — by people who are just sure I am failing to appreciate the expertise of the Great Ormond Street doctors, professionals who face difficult decisions like this every day, and know much more about Charlie’s illness than either his parents or moralizing political commentators like yours truly.

The cleverer among these defenders of Charlie’s absolute right to be killed with dignity without his parents’ consent have usually supported their position with arguments like the following (which I paraphrase closely from actual readers’ comments and other writers’ articles on this case):

“Haven’t you considered the possibility that the doctors may be right, and that Charlie’s case really is hopeless?”

“The American doctor’s proposed experimental treatment is untested on humans and has little chance of success, and furthermore it is probably far too late now anyway.”

“The baby’s condition is so deteriorated that even if he could be kept alive, it would be without meaningful brain function or quality of life.”

“As much as we might sympathize with parents who cannot accept the death of a beloved baby, the truth is that terrible things happen, and this baby’s condition is simply one of those tragic facts of life: sometimes there is really nothing to be done.”

If any of those arguments resonate with you, and leave you feeling a little torn, then you have entered this discussion without a firm hold on the principles involved. For in truth we might answer, “Yes, you’re exactly right,” to each and every one of the above points, and yet still say, with all the firmness in the world — as I do in fact say — that what the British government has done in this case, through the agency of its socialist slaves at the Great Ormond Street Hospital, is immoral and tyrannical in the highest degree.

For the issue at stake here is not, and never was, whether the GOSH doctors know more than most of us about medicine. Neither is it whether all sick infants can be saved. Nor is it whether a severely ill child’s parents might tend to grasp at straws beyond the reach of reasonable probability.

The issue is this: “All things being equal, who has the moral authority to make life and death decisions about a child in cases such as these — the child’s parents or the State?” 

To answer “the parents” is to abide by modern liberty’s founding principles, including the principles of self-ownership and self-preservation. It is also to grant a notion that may be traced through the entire history of Western political philosophy, and is of the essence of our modern concept of “civil society,” namely that political community is preceded, both logically and chronologically, by the private family, such that a political community is, at base, a union of families. The family is thus nature’s protective filter between the individual human being — particularly the child, who most needs protection — and the State’s coercive and subordinating impulses.

In this light, it is clear that a society with pretenses of being free must preserve for the private family the greatest possible latitude in managing the affairs that fall properly under the jurisdiction of the family relationship and do not cross over into the realm of criminal rights violations. Families, or more specifically parents, are in effect the proxy rights-holders for their underage children, and are therefore obliged to act in the interests of their children’s rightful self-ownership and self-preservation to whatever extent they can, within reason.

Hence, for example, in a free society parents, and not government, ought to have the ultimate authority in educating children — a premise we have long since abandoned, of course, which is the chief reason civil society has deteriorated to the tatters we live in today.

Hence, for another example, in a free society parents, and not government, must have the ultimate authority in deciding whether to pursue one more last-gasp effort at saving the life of a deathly ill infant. Whether survival seems likely in the eyes of “most experts” is, and should be, a major factor the parents will weigh in making their decisions. But, assuming the parents’ basic competence, rationality, and acceptance of their responsibilities as parents, there can be no legitimate grounds, in any society that hopes to remain free, for denying them their authority to do what they deem necessary or best for their child’s life and welfare.

In short, the issue in the Charlie Gard case is not, and never was, whether Charlie would have been likely to respond well to Michio Hirano’s experimental treatment if the parents had been permitted to take him to America in a timely fashion. The issue is, and always was, whether Chris Gard and Connie Yates had the moral authority and — on principles of modern liberty — the right, to take their child to any available world-class specialist they damn well pleased (at their own expense), in their honorable efforts to save their son’s life. 

Seen properly, the whole case revolves around this pair of questions: Does the impersonal State own the individual human being — in other words, are we slaves? Or does the individual have a right to self-ownership and self-preservation, to be represented, in the case of one who is pre-rational and/or unconscious, by those who most intimately and naturally identify with his rights and interests, namely the parents who brought him into the world and thereby assumed personal responsibility for his life?

Stated in this way — the proper and clear way — the issue at stake here was obviously not a question of whether or not to respect medical expertise. It was an issue of freedom vs. tyranny. If the State owns the individual, as the British government has declared with abundant clarity in their treatment of Charlie Gard and his parents, then tyranny has won.

What part of that is difficult for the defenders of State baby-killers to understand? Probably no part of it — which is why they take such pains to fool you (and themselves) into believing that this case was about medical expertise and “accepting the inevitable.”

Don’t let them fool you. They are defending tyranny, plain and simple. Make them own it.

(This article originally appeared at American Thinker.)


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