Why should the courts stand in the way of Charlie Gard's last glimmer of hope?

2013-03-27_daily_record_thumbnail.jpgBefore modern medical technology, poor Charlie Gard would have lost his life by now.

His fate would not have lain in the hands of doctors or courts but a higher power.

Charlie cannot eat, drink, breathe or swallow unaided. He has brain damage due to a rare condition. It is only 21st century artificial life support that keeps him alive.

The fight his parents are waging against the system is the most modern of moral conflicts. But that does not make it any less tragic.

Like many observers, I cannot help feeling uncomfortable that the court overruled distraught parents who don’t want to see their child die.

The whole affair has been terrible for Great Ormond Street Hospital, an institution known for saving young lives and on occasion seeming to perform miracles.

It highlights the excruciatingly difficult decisions doctors must make every single day.

In most cases, families accept it when a doctor says: “We have done all we can.” The courts in this case agreed with doctors that keeping Charlie alive artificially was not helping but harming him.

His parents disagree and argue that an experimental treatment pioneered in America could help him and means his life support should stay on. Money has been donated for his treatment and hospitals in both the Vatican and the US have offered to help.

Now, they may be doing so for ideological reasons but that doesn’t matter. They are offering a glimmer of a chance.

So the case has changed. And even if it is a forlorn hope, it does not add to the burden of the NHS.

So unless there is evidence that Charlie would be made worse by the treatment, such as through increased distress and pain, is it right for the courts to continue to stand in the way of it?

This is the part that makes me uncomfortable. The parents say there is no way they would inflict further suffering on their son. I believe them.

So if he would not suffer, and the NHS are not footing the bill, surely they should be given their place, even if the treatment is unlikely to succeed?

Read the rest of my column here.


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