The debate over euthanasia has been going on for quite a while. On the one hand you have an argument that people should have the right to decide when they want to die and giving up the fight is a personal decision particularly when the fight impacts the quality of the rest of your life. On the other hand there is an argument that it is a slippery slope to murder and it would mostly affect the poor and those unable to pay for healthcare.
Both sides have valid points and are united in one thing. Both sides agree that the decision should be left to the patient or his designated representative. While we were distracted with the news media focusing on Trump and his presidency the liberals in Europe have escalated the argument.
Meet Charlie Gard. It is his picture at the start of his article. Charlie was born with a rare genetic condition which limits his ability to get energy to the muscles, kidney, and brain. As a result he is brain-damaged at his young age. His parents, the people who are legally empowered to make decisions on his behalf, want to keep him on life support and keep trying to treat the condition. The hospital disagrees. They say that prolonging treatment will only cause suffering for Charlie and have sued the parents to discontinue all treatment and move their child to palliative care.
The courts all the way to the European Court of Human Rights agreed with the argument of the hospital. Yes you did read that right the courts agreed with the hospital. To escalate the matters further the parents asked to bring Charlie to the US on their own dime and seek experimental treatment. All the courts denied this. The parents then asked if it was possible to bring the Charlie home, After all by filing this case the hospital has already indicated that they have given up on the case. The courts refused them as well.
Are you outraged yet?
Before we begin with the legal implications we have to be honest about one thing. The UK runs a single payer national health system. The hospital wanted to stop treatment because they did not want to pay for it anymore as it was not profitable. After all with single payer Charlie can have nearly unlimited treatment and the hospital and the government do not want to pay for that.
This case has implications beyond Charlie. Let us break down what exactly happened. The guardians of Charlie Gard made a decision regarding euthanasia for the child. The courts overrode them. Can you think of any other similar situations?
Other children under the guardianship of their parents, grandparents, or legal guardians are in the same situation. If a spouse were to have an accident or debilitating sickness his partner would be the one making the decisions for him so they would be in the same situation. Elderly people usually have their next of kin deciding for them or if they are prepared someone with their power of attorney. In all of theses situations the European courts have declared that the hospitals can decide they no longer need to take care of you as long as they can prove that it is not likely you will recover from your illness.
Keep in mind that when your guardian or power of attorney makes the decisions it is the same as if you were making the decisions. Using this same logic the courts can use this decision as a precedent to remove your right to decide whether or not you would like treatment for a terminal disease.
This is not a simple case of a hospital refusing treatment to Charlie. It is the hospital and other healthcare providers asking the courts to let them decide whether or not to give you treatment and the European courts granting them this power.
Charlie Gard is the first victim of enforced euthanasia.