Charlie Gard is a 10-month-old boy who is on life support because he is dying of a rare genetic condition. If he lived in America he’d have a chance of surviving. Unfortunately, he lives in Great Britain. (Editor’s note: Lloyd Billingsley has also weighed in on this story.)
Charlie has a form of mitochondrial disease which causes muscle weakness and brain damage. His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, have raised about US$ 1.8 million for treatment in America that might save Charlie’s life. But both physicians and judges in Britain have decreed that the treatment won’t work and that Charlie should be “allowed” to “die with dignity.”
Yes, you read that right.
Chris and Connie are willing to spend their own money to put Charlie on a plane and fly to America to receive treatment that might save his life. But the British medical and court systems have taken that decision out of their hands.
Making the situation even crueler, the physicians at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where Charlie is being treated, will not let Charlie’s parents take him home after they remove him from life support, which was supposed to occur today.
This sort of sinister hubris is not an isolated incident. About a decade ago, Alice Mahon, a member of parliament, needed the drug Lucentis to keep from going blind. Britain’s single-payer system, known as the National Health Service (NHS), refused to provide it for her. She went blind in her left eye.
More recently, a report from Macmillan Cancer Support found that the NHS denies cancer treatment to roughly 14,000 elderly patients annually because they are too old.
Clearly, taking the decision out of the hands of patients and their family is a feature of Britain’s National Health Service, not a bug.
Health care has to rationed, and in a system like the NHS that is largely controlled by politicians, it has to be rationed in a way that does not threaten politicians’ reelection chances. That means it will be rationed by delaying or denying care to those who are most ill. The reason is that people who are seriously ill are relatively few in number, being part of a group that is too small to threaten politicians on election day. Indeed, some people are so ill that, conveniently for politicians, they won’t be around for the next election. And, now, apparently, some patients will never even reach voting age.
Another reason that systems like the NHS harm people like Charlie is that they are magnets for the “anointed” – people who think they are entitled to make decisions for other people. The anointed are attracted to command-and-control systems like the NHS because they pay little to no cost if the decisions they make are wrong and they have the power of government at their disposal to enforce those decisions.
In this particular case, Charlie will pay the biggest costs, pain and death, if the decision made is wrong. Since Charlie is in no position to make a decision, it should fall to his parents since they pay the next biggest cost. It is that cost—the agony of seeing Charlie suffer and die—that gives his parents the biggest incentive to make the right decision.
Will the physicians and judges who imposed this monstrous decision pay any sort of cost, such as losing their jobs? Of course not. They are public employees which makes it nearly impossible to fire them. Rather, their careers and their lives will continue much the same as they are now regardless of whether Charlie lives or dies.
Since a single-payer system causes people to die, it is ironic that a politician like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants the U.S. health care system to emulate Britain’s. Ironic because lately Sanders and other senators have made it fashionable to claim that the Republican health care plan before the Senate will cause people to die.
In that same vein, then, we need to ask Senator Sanders, why does he want people to die?