Charlie Gard’s parents wanted to take Charlie to the United States for treatment. However, the doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in the United Kingdom refused. Charlie, the 10-month old boy of Chris Gard and Connie Yates, has mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDS), of which there are only 16 cases worldwide. Because of MDS, energy is not produced in the muscles, kidneys, and brain of the sufferer. Typically, MDS is fatal in infants and young children such as Charlie. Due to the possible fatality of Charlie’s disease, Charlie’s doctors in the U.K. do not believe extending his life is worthwhile.
The courts have, for the most part, sided with the doctors, as three lower courts have ruled against Charlie. This was until Charlie’s parents appealed to European judges just hours before he was to be removed from his ventilator. Fortunately, the judges have ordered doctors to keep Charlie on his ventilator until midnight on June 19 so a final ruling can be made.
Many in the media have responded to this treatment of baby Charlie with amazement and outrage. In reaction to this horrifying news, the liberal The Guardian published an article titled, “The Charlie Gard case is a sad reminder that the law is the preserve of the powerful.” The author states, “it is a reminder of the way that in other courts the state is skewing the balance of justice in its own interests.”
Furthermore, Maggie Gallagher of The Stream writes “the new killing fields are hospitals and health clinics.” Throughout the article titled “Doctors are Getting Used to Killing. They’re Getting Good at It,” Gallagher rants against the unethical treatment of baby Charlie and those in similar situations. She states the doctors are “playing God” by having Charlie removed from treatment. The legal system has been complacent in allowing that to happen.
This case has received a barrage of well-deserved media attention. The tone and near universal criticism of the treatment of baby Charlie may indicate this case is a unique horrifying situation. However, for Texans, baby Charlie’s case hits close to home. Right here in Texas, what is happening to Charlie would be entirely legal. In fact, the forced removal of baby Charlie’s treatment would not even garner media attention. Under the Texas Advance Directives Act passed in 1999, doctors can remove treatment from patients without the consent of the patient or the patient’s family, or, even worse, blatantly contradict the stated decisions of the patient or family. If patients are unable to find another hospital that will receive them within 10 days, the hospital and doctors can effectively end the life of those patients. Many Texans have lost their lives to this gruesome law. However, the media attention is slim to none when drawing attention to this practice right here in Texas.
Texas Right to Life has led the campaign to rid Texas of this abhorrent law for more than a decade, including efforts during the Regular Session of the 85th Texas Legislature earlier this year. Unfortunately, little progress was made due to those siding with hospitals and doctors over the lives of vulnerable patients. As such, House Bill 4090 by Representative Stephanie Klick was referred to the House committee on State Affairs, but, unsurprisingly, never even received a hearing. Likewise, Senate Bill 1213 by Senator Bryan Hughes was referred to the Senate committee on State Affairs, but suffered the same fate.
If only half of the media’s attention and outrage were given to vulnerable patients in Texas hospitals, perhaps our lawmakers would have a greater sense of urgency in ridding Texas of this inhumane policy. Unfortunately, these vulnerable patients continue to be the forgotten victims in need of protection from anti-Life medical ethics and policies. Charlie Gard’s situation is indeed terrible, but these situations are occurring right here in our own backyard.