A subtle but significant difference in laws creates the international family law quandry that surrounds Charlie Gard.
If you haven’t heard, Charlie Gard is an 11th month old British citizen who suffers from a disease so rare that only 16 people have ever been known to have it. The hospital in London which has been treating Charlie has given up on him, deciding that his disease is irreversible and his brain in irreparably damaged. The British Court has stepped in and determined that Charlie’s parents can no longer determine Charlie’s future. The Court has determined that Charlie must die.
Pope Francis has offered his hospital to treat Charlie free of charge. Donald Trump has offered Charlie the best care in the U.S., free of charge. Charlie’s parents have raised over $2,000,000 for his treatment in the U.S. A U.S. Doctor has testified in London that there is still hope that Charlie can recover and that he is not currently suffering.
Charlie’s British doctors “draw a distinction between the U.S. approach – to allow experimental treatment if the parents wish it – and the UK approach to do what is in the patient’s ‘best interests'”. In Britain, “best interests” are defined by the Crown.
How can a court in England decide that Charlie has to die? Don’t his parents have a say? Don’t his parents have control over their little boy? In the United States, if parents are abusing a child, the government has the ability to take over custody of the child. However in the Gard case, the parents want to exhaust all possibilities to treat Charlie, not let him die. That’s the opposite of abuse. Letting Charlie die is the British government’s position.
In Great Britain, the government is the ultimate guardian of all its citizens. In that sense, the citizens are possessions of the State. Ultimately, even without doing anything wrong, the British government decides a citizen’s fate.
Our United States’ history and customs have defined our freedoms. We are our own persons, whether or not we are sovereign to ourselves. If we don’t harm others, we can pretty much be left alone. We have a right to determine what we will do with our children. Absent abusing them, how we raise them is up to us. Not so in other places.
Our freedoms as Americans are not half bad. We would do well to keep them that way.