SiouxEmpire.com allows local conservative/libertarian writer and 2016 Sioux Falls school board election last-placer Peter Vaughn Pischke to take a swing at the Charlie Gard controversy (British infant with an incurable illness and severe brain damage, parents want to seek experimental nucleoside treatment, doctors say it likely won’t help, British courts won’t let them travel overseas—see this BBC explanation). Pischke attempts to boost his ethos by portraying himself as above making the British case a partisan issue, but then throws around inflammatory terms like “barbarism” and “insane” and links single-payer healthcare coverage to “Eugenics, Progressivism, and the Nazis.”
Back the truck up, Pete. The Charlie Gard case has nothing to do with single-payer health coverage. The hospital taking care of the infant applied for permission to attempt the requested experimental therapy, but the child’s condition subsequently worsened to the point that doctors decided that the treatment would only prolong suffering. Letting the parents travel to the U.S. to spend the donations they’ve raised online could save the U.S. National Health Service money, or at least free up resources to be used more efficiently on other patients. Private insurers in the United States regularly deny coverage for experimental treatments. So Charlie Gard is no indictment of single-payer.
The Charlie Gard case isn’t about the money; it’s about the thorny question of whose rights come first, a child’s or the parents’:
Parents in Britain do not have the absolute right to make decisions for their children. It is normal for courts to intervene when parents and doctors disagree on the treatment of a child. The rights of the child take primacy, with the courts weighing issues such as whether a child is suffering and how much benefit a proposed treatment might produce [Danica Kirka, “A Brief Look at the Medical Issues in the Charlie Gard Case,” AP via WSBT22, 2017.07.10].
By placing child rights above parent rights, British law and the European Court of Human Rights are taking what sounds very much like the pro-life position American conservatives use to justify abortion bans (I’m trying not to be partisan here, Pete, but the comparison is worth making): the rights of a young human being outweigh the right of a parent to make medical decisions.
That’s not insane barbarism. That’s a complicated moral question. If British parents want to deny their child a blood transfusion that can save the child’s life, British law says no, the child’s right to live comes first, and in goes the life-saving blood. If Charlie Gard’s parents wanted to try bloodletting or leeches, British law would likely say no way. In this case nucleoside therapy isn’t leeches, but it’s also not scientifically proven to have any positive impact on children with Charlie Gard’s condition. Doctors are placed in the unenviable position of having to study the issue and determine whether it will do more harm than good to the child, and in this case, the experts have said no, they can’t in good conscience do what their best analyses say is harm to this child.
Peter Vaughn Pischke is right: the Charlie Gard case is not a partisan issue (review: I managed to discuss the whole thing without mentioning Democrats or Republicans). But neither is the Charlie Gard case an issue of single-payer, or socialism, or Nazis.