Suffer Little Children

BY MANDY BALDWIN

Great Ormond Street Hospital are not exactly covering themselves with glory over the case of Charlie Gard, the little boy whose parents have been ordered to let him die, despite treatment being available.  In fact, so great is the apparent damage to GOSH’s image, I wouldn’t even be surprised if custodians of the J. M. Barrie estate are considering their options.

The hospital which is funded in perpetuity by Peter Pan, decided to take a devastated couple through the courts, to over-rule love, intuition, hope, empathy, decency and the core of humanity and, in essence, demand the right to be right, discarding the couple’s baby  as unworthy of life.

Excuse the strong imagery, but GOSH appear to value little Charlie Gard’s chances of life about as much as they would a wild animal, hit by a car and found at a roadside.
I shudder to imagine – did the ‘experts’ from GOSH feel gladness when the European Court of Human Rights declined to support loving parents over people in white coats?

Just who do GOSH think they are, and who do they think they are dealing with?

The first question, it seems, can be answered by the word ‘God’ – but it appears they have no idea what the answer is to the second question, so I’ll tell them: they are dealing with parents of a sick child, and that means, people who love, and hope, with a passion which would fight tigers and win, would climb mountains barefoot – and would unquestioningly offer up their own life in exchange for their child’s if such a bargain could be made.

Whatever you, or I – or GOSH, or the ECHR – think about Charlie Gard’s chances of life, isn’t relevant.  This isn’t about detached logic, or certainty – it is about love, and no matter how ‘concerned’ those representing GOSH claim they are, they don’t actually love Charlie.

On the subject of certainty, one thing is sure: little Charlie Gard isn’t hoping he’ll die because he will never be a pentathlete or an intellectual rival to Stephen Hawking – although, come to think of it, there were those who would have “allowed” Stephen Hawking to die, out of what they considered then to be infinite knowledge and boundless compassion.

The more I think about this case, the more scared I am that people paid to prolong life should behave as GOSH have, because the doctors involved are acting, not only with an absolute lack of empathy, but also without any acceptable motive.

There was never any need for them to demand superiority of rights, over Charlie’s parents.  It was none of their business.  Charlie’s continued treatment wasn’t going to cost the NHS a penny – Charlie’s parents had raised £1.3 million for that.  And if – as GOSH claimed – death was naturally so near and inescapable, how would there be time for court action?

Charlie’s parents have recently shared Charlie’s patient records, which show that their little son is not, as claimed, ‘brain dead’. The reaction of GOSH to the exposure of these records was a pious demand for patient confidentiality, bizarre as they have so little regard for Charlie’s most basic right of all. And there is heartbreaking cruelty, too: in their determination to prevent Charlie’s parents disobeying the order of the court, and taking their son to America for treatment, GOSH have even denied the family their last few days together at home.

charlie gard

So why interfere, why do the unspeakable and demand that Charlie die?

GOSH appear to be acting out of a terrifying belief in their almighty powers which places their need to be right, above the needs of Charlie’s parents to do everything possible for their child. (After all, what if the American doctors proved them wrong?) These are not people I would have wanted near me, or my son, when he was a small child, on life-support.

But what’s this? While GOSH lay down the law, adding layers of hell to Charlie’s parent’s anguish, into the breech step the least likely Batman and Robin imaginable, moved by true humanity and empathy to want to right wrongs: Donald Trump and The Pope. By their support, they reduce the chilly ECHR to nothing but a pack of cards, and their intervention, their love, puts GOSH to shame.

Left to Donald and Francis, Charlie and his parents would be in safe, loving hands; Charlie would have the treatment which may, or may not, help him – and if it didn’t, then his parents would know the peace of having done all they could. That’s all they ask, and no doctor, no court, no power on Earth has the moral right to deny them that.

But, by God, GOSH certainly intend to try, because they are experts, they have certificates to prove it, and other people with other certificates agree with them, and Charlie, his parents, public opinion, and even arguably the two most powerful men on Earth, aren’t going to best the experts!

It’s unlikely that little Charlie will be cured; but by what right does anyone claim to be sure of that?  I remember being told it was unlikely that my son would walk again, or be – as it was delicately phrased – educationally as he was. He proved them wrong: he is very fit, runs and works out daily, and teaches at the biggest university in China. And even if ‘they’ had been right – he would still be my son.

Parents of sick children like little Charlie know that their child still exists, and is loved, during the long hours sat by hospital beds when the body is stilled, and the voice is silenced.  In that silence and stillness, is the profound knowledge that there is more to a human than a functioning body, an active mind, or practical achievements.  There is what was at the beginning, and what will be at the end. There is life itself and it is beyond price.  It should certainly be beyond reach of ‘experts’.

There are few atheists at the bedside of a sick child. I don’t expect the ECHR to understand that – but all who sail in GOSH most certainly should, or else they are, as doctors and as people, greatly – it could be said unforgivably – diminished by their lack of understanding.

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