European Court of Human Rights Rejects Parents’ Appeal to Keep Baby on Life Support
Steven Miner, Social Policy Contributor
There was a bit of tragic news earlier this week, a British couple, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, have lost their final appeal to keep their 10-month old baby, Charlie Gard, on life support to continue treatment. Charlie suffers from an extremely rare genetic disorder called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, which prevents him from getting energy to his muscles, kidneys, and brain. Only 16 people are ever known to have had the disease. He has suffered brain damage and requires support to remain alive.
Given the rarity of his disorder, there has been no treatment available for Charlie in the UK. However, his parents did discover a brand new, experimental treatment in the US called nucleoside bypass therapy. This treatment could theoretically have “repaired Charlie’s mitochondrial DNA and helped it synthesise again by giving him the naturally occurring compounds his body isn’t able to produce.” It has already been used to treat several patients in the United States, though none were in a stage as advanced as Charlie. Despite this, his parents decided the risk was worth it and set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money to travel to America and begin the treatment.
Chris and Connie successfully raised nearly £1.4 million to help save their son. However, the London-based hospital Charlie was staying in, Great Ormond Street Hospital, refused to let him leave, arguing that there was little chance the treatment would succeed and that he should “die with dignity” in the hospital. His doctors believed the treatment would only succeed in continuing the child’s suffering. They believed that turning off his life support was in his best interest and applied for permission to do so. The parents went to court to fight the hospital, arguing that their son is a “prisoner” in the hospital.
Unfortunately, the High Court, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court of the United Kingdom all ruled in the hospital’s favor that the child’s life support could be turned off. They argued that it would be cruel to extend his life any further. In a last-ditch effort, the parents turned to the European Court of Human Rights. Their lawyers argued that the parents should be able to make whatever decision they feel is in the best decision of their child, as long as it doesn’t pose significant harm. They also argued that Charlie’s “rights to life and liberty” were being breached. These arguments fell on deaf ears, however, as this court ruled in favor of the hospital as well.
Mr. Justice Nicholas Francis of the High Court’s Family Division authored the majority opinion that was subsequently upheld by the higher courts. He stated that if “Charlie’s damaged brain function cannot be improved, as all agree, then how can he be any better off than he is now?” It is a scary thought that the courts, and therefore the state, get to decide what quality of life is necessary for a life to be worth living. The state in this case also believed it knew what was better for this child than his own parents.
Justice Nicholas, in his opinion, praised the parents as “brave and dignified,” while admiring their “dedication” to Charlie. As Ian Tuttle, contributor to the National Review, points out, there is an extremely contradictory message in this opinion:
“So it was that successive courts in the United Kingdom and in Europe simultaneously found that Connie Yates and Chris Gard had devoted themselves unhesitatingly to their son’s welfare for ten months, and also that Yates and Gard could not be trusted to act in their son’s best interests.”
This was a tragic ruling, not only because these judges sentenced an innocent baby to die, but also because they established an incredibly dangerous precedent.
Follow Steven on Twitter @StevenMiner14
The Millennial Review is taking the fight to the front lines as we battle for conservatism in the millennial generation. Join us! Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.