A worldwide controversy was sparked recently when a newborn was condemned to death by the British National Health Service.
Infant Charlie Gard has a rare birth defect, and his parents raised $1.7 million to bring him to the United States for experimental treatment.
But the British government said no. After a groundswell of support for Charlie and criticism toward the government’s decision, the Pope took a position on the matter.
Pope Francis issued a statement in contrast to an official release from the Vatican.
In a rare display of ecclesiastical cross-purposes, Pope Francis has reversed the statement from his newly appointed head of the Academy for Life regarding care for a British baby suffering from a debilitating genetic condition.
On Sunday, Francis expressed his support for the parents of ten-month-old Charlie Gard, suggesting they be allowed to do everything possible to treat their son.
“The Holy Father follows with affection and commotion the situation of Charlie Gard, and expresses his own closeness to his parents,” reads a statement issued by Greg Burke, the papal spokesman.
“He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”
The Pope’s words clashed with an earlier statement released by the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, the pope’s advisory panel on bioethical issues, which seemed to sympathize with the court ruling that barred the parents from pursuing an experimental treatment in the United States.
In a June 30 statement, the academy president Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said while the parents’ wishes should be “heard and respected,” they must also be helped to understand the “unique difficulty of their situation” that includes accepting “the limits of medicine.”
“Likewise, the wishes of parents must heard and respected, but they too must be helped to understand the unique difficulty of their situation and not be left to face their painful decisions alone,” the statement read.
Stressing the “complexity of the situation,” the Archbishop declared that we must “recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs.”
Because of his condition, Charlie is unable to breathe without assistance, but his parents had raised money by crowd-funding to take their boy to the U.S. for trial therapy. Critics reacted strongly to the Vatican statement, saying it was condescending to the parents and failed to deal with the most crucial issue: illicit state usurpation of the parents’ rights to determine and act on their child’s best interests.
Doctors even refused to let Charlie’s parents take him home, insisting that he die in the hospital.
“We want to give him a bath at home, put him in a cot which he has never slept in, but we are now being denied that,” Gard’s father said. “We know what day our son is going to die but don’t get a say in how that will happen.”
Donald Trump also chimed in with support for Charlie.
If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.
This case of a callous bureaucracy superseding parents’ wishes and doing little to save a life could serve as a harbinger for full nationalized health care in the United States.
Money or logistics aren’t an issue. Central planners simply believe they know what’s best, and they’re imposing their will on the parents.
This is precisely the type of rationing that goes on in nationalized health care. The state gets to decide how and when resources are allocated, leading to inefficiency, lack of care, and often interminable wait times for even routine check-ups.
There’s no reason not to give Charlie at chance at life, regardless of how remote. This isn’t about decency on the part of the NHS. It’s about control.