By Mary Kizior
It is hard for any parent to watch his child suffer, but no parent would sentence his child to death before God calls him home.
Such is the situation in the sad case of Charlie Gard—an infant with a severe and rare genetic condition that will eventually cause his death. Charlie’s parents have bravely fought for their son, even raising over $1.5 million for his treatment and battling courts to see that Charlie gets the care and treatment he deserves as a human being.
The battle over Charlie’s life has become a power struggle over who has the right to decide Charlie’s future—his parents or the state. Despite offers of free treatment from the United States and the Vatican, the British courts will not allow Charlie to be moved for treatment in another country—purely for legal reasons. Resigned that Charlie’s respirator will be removed, his parents made one final request—that Charlie be allowed to die at home. This also was denied.
The Great Ormond Street Hospital upholds its decision to end Charlie’s life support because extensive brain damage from his condition has led to a “low quality of life” for him. They would rather he “die with dignity” than allow him to receive further—but possibly futile—treatment. The hospital will not wait until Charlie dies on his own.
Do the hospital and the British courts really have Charlie’s best interests at heart? Should a court, not God, decide when and where Charlie Gard should die?
The whole situation boils down to this question: Who has the power to decide when a person’s life begins and ends?
God alone decides. God has a plan for each one of us. Despite His unconditional love for us, God never promised that our lives on earth would be free from suffering. Remember that even after baptism we still have the stain of Original Sin to bear in our broken world. Just as God appointed the time for each of us to be born, He also arranged the time when He would call us home to Himself.
Sadly, we live in a culture that values people only for their contribution to the rest of society. Neither the court nor the hospital sees Charlie’s life as precious—as a unique, unrepeatable gift from the hand of the Creator. Charlie cannot make a measurable, physical contribution to society, but the story of his fighting spirit and his parents’ courage has brought people together from all over the world to support him. Over 83,000 people have donated to help him receive the treatment he needs. Hundreds of thousands more have signed petitions to the hospital and the British government with one simple message: Let Charlie live. Throughout his short life here on earth, Charlie has brought hundreds of thousands of people together in a spirit of solidarity.
The Great Ormond Street Hospital and the courts are judging Charlie’s life by society’s standards, not by his value as a human being. The problem is, if we only value a human being as long as he is a functioning, contributing member of society, how can we see someone like Charlie as anything other than a drain on society and a burden to his family?
As pro-lifers, we know that just because Charlie cannot breathe, swallow, or smile on his own that does not make him any less valuable. Charlie is a fighter made in the image and likeness of God.
It can be very difficult to watch someone you love suffer. People like Charlie’s parents have an incredibly hard cross to bear. And when it comes to helping Charlie, medicine has limits. Though Charlie’s parents are not morally obliged to pursue further treatment for their son, as this treatment may be excessively burdensome on Charlie (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2278), they know they must follow God’s will in how their son is treated. Despite the challenges that Charlie’s case brings to medical professionals, one thing is clear: Pulling the plug on Charlie’s respirator is murder, no matter who does it. Charlie deserves the right to live until God calls him home. Charlie may be near the day that he will die of his terminal illness, but today is not that day.
Do you want to help Charlie and give support to his parents during this period of suffering? Here are a few ways you can reach out and help them:
The Divine Mercy Chaplet is particularly efficacious for those suffering or dying. Pray for Charlie’s parents, his caretakers, and those in authority who have the power to end Charlie’s life. Pray that Charlie be allowed to live until it is his time to die.
2. Sign a petition
Right now, there are two petitions to save Charlie: one directed at the London hospital and the other directed at the UK’s Parliament and prime minister.
You can still give money to support Charlie’s family as they endure numerous medical expenses.
4. Educate yourself
Euthanasia is swiftly becoming the next vital pro-life topic in America and around the world. Our one-class unit study for high school students, Euthanasia: An Introduction, gives a basic overview of the language surrounding euthanasia and what the Catholic Church teaches about end-of-life care, and shows students real-life examples of euthanasia in action. You can also read articles on euthanasia—from a brief history and definitions to legislative policy and loving wills—on the American Life League website.
Mary Kizior is a content developer for American Life League’s Culture of Life Studies Program, which stresses the culture of life as an integral part of every academic discipline. CLSP is dedicated to helping students become effective communicators of the pro-life message. Sign up for our e-mail newsletter to see how we can help you foster a culture of life at home and in school.