Today, the case of a little boy who is soon to die. His name is Charlie.
He was born looking quite normal, about 10 months ago, in England, but he suffered from a rare, and lethal, cellular condition for which no cure is known.
After many months of care in a British hospital, doctors told his parents that they could do nothing more. However, his parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, learned of new — but still experimental — treatments in the United States.
Thinking they might try to heal Charlie with these treatments, they raised more than $1.5 million through an internet appeal to take him from England to America. But doctors in England argued that the parents were not really considering Charlie’s best interests.
The British doctors argued that what the parents proposed was really to “experiment” on their child, so the British doctors refused to accept the parents’ proposal to remove the child from the hospital and fly him to America, all the while attached to special life support breathing equipment, which he needs to stay alive.
The parents appealed the decision, taking the matter to British courts. But at each level, the British court system sided with the doctors and the hospital.
The proposal to withdraw the child from the hospital was rejected.
The parents recently made a final appeal, to the European Court. The European Court earlier this week rejected the parents’ appeal.
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And so, the British hospital is reportedly about to take little Charlie off of life support, and, according to all accounts, Charlie will soon die due to an inability to breathe on his own. (The latest reports suggest that the hospital has decided to give the parents another day or two with the child, before taking him off of the respirator).
This evening at 7 p.m. in St. Peter’s Square in Rome there will be a Rosary prayed for Charlie and his parents, and all involved in this case.
Of course parental emotion sometimes trumps reason. Parents will attempt everything possible to save their children, even refusing to accept the fact that a certain situation cannot be healed or cured by medical means.
But in this case, where the parents in their desperation found the funds to try one last possibility to heal their child, it seems that the doctors, the courts, and the European Court, should grant the parents their right, as parents, to have the ultimate responsibility for their child, and allow them to do everything they can to save his life.
So what has occurred in this case seems a miscarriage of justice.
And, this case could be become a precedent in future for limiting the rights of parents to care for their children. For this reason, it is an important case and worth knowing about.
For the Vatican, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, issued a statement today reaffirming the Church’s teaching that it is immoral to end any human life by an intentional act, including by suspending nutrition or hydration (“non si può mai porre in essere alcun gesto che metta fine intenzionalmente a un’esistenza umana compresa la sospensione della nutrizione e dell’idratazione”).
“The will of the parents must be respected and heard” (“va rispettata e ascoltata anzitutto la volontà dei genitori”), Paglia said.
But he then added: “At the same time, it is necessary to also help them to recognize the burdensome peculiarity of their situation, such that they cannot be left alone to take such sorrowful decisions” (“al contempo, è necessario aiutare anche loro a riconoscere la peculiarità gravosa della loro condizione, tale per cui non possono essere lasciati soli nel prendere decisioni così dolorose”).
May eternal light shine upon Charlie, and may he rest in peace, and may his parents be comforted in their sorrow.