Sunday, July 16, 2017

This is the State above the Law

I have - reluctantly - been following the case of Charlie Gard in the UK.

I am unable to evaluate the experimental treatment that Charlie's parents want to try. That's ok; it's not up to me to decide whether it's worthwhile. It is - or should be - up to the parents, who aren't even asking the NHS to fund the treatment; they've raised enough money to pay for it privately.

Instead, due to some unconscionable law, the decision is to be made by the courts that have already tortured the parents far too long - granting last-minute stays of a few days at a time, demanding new evidence on short notice. I understand that now, in his great wisdom and generosity, the judge who will decide the case is going to allow one of Charlie's parents to attend the meeting at which the doctor who might administer the treatment will attempt to persuade the doctors of Great Ormond Street Hospital and the judge that it may in fact improve the quality of the baby's life.

At present the parents are not only forbidden to take their baby to America for treatment; they will not even be allowed to take him home to die in their arms. The courts have spoken: they must watch him die in the hospital.

Of course, they're now suggesting that all this might change in a couple of days, if the American doctor is sufficiently persuasive. You see what I mean about torturing the parents? I suspect the judge has already made his decision and that this is a bit of theatre aimed at defusing popular indignation. I just don't know whether the decision is going to be, "See, we gave the parents every chance to prove their case and they couldn't do it, so let's kill the baby," or "OMG! New evidence! Had we but known!" But in any case I believe this is a face-saving exercise for the doctors and the judge, and who cares if it prolongs the parents' suspense? The important thing is to take the heat off the hospital doctors, right?

For the last few days, some fragments of Kipling's 'A Deathbed' have been running through my head, even though the poem is not directly relevant:

'This is the State above the Law,

The State exists for the State alone.'

(This is a gland at the back of the jaw,

And an answering lump by the collar-bone.)

'There is neither Evil nor Good in life,

Except as the needs of the State ordain.'

(Since it is rather too late for the knife,

All we can do is mask the pain.)

3 comments:

  1. I'm rather torn by this whole thing, as it is being reported in the news. I can't help but think of that family in Florida years back. Had to look it up to make sure I was remembering right - Terri Schiavo in a vegetative state, husband wanting feeding tube removed since state wasn't thought reversible, parents getting the courts involved because they wanted her kept alive, eventually politicians also getting pulled into it and obviously, as you suspect in this current situation, making statements to either gain public favor or cover asses. The laws are in place to protect the innocent or incapacitated, but the laws also sometimes make a bloody mess of what should be a private matter.

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  2. If it were my decision to make, I'd be torn too. I really doubt that this experimental treatment will do much good. But - it's not up to me. And I don't believe it should be up to the State.

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