By Marc A. Thiessen
Imagine your own beloved child was lying in a hospital with a mysterious brain disease. Should you, as the parent, be allowed to decide whether to continue treatment for your son or daughter? Or should the state have the power to overrule you and cut off life support over your objections?
The vast majority of Americans say the final decision should be left with parents. That’s because, under our system, the purpose of the state is to protect our inalienable rights to life and liberty. But in Britain, it seems, the state has the power to trample life and liberty and condemn a disabled child to death.
That is precisely what the British High Court of Justice did in the case of Alfie Evans, a little boy who suffered from a rapidly progressive terminal brain disease. Doctors at London’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital concluded that further treatment was futile and asked the court — over his parents’ objections — to order the removal of his ventilator. Alfie’s parents pleaded for permission to transfer him to Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in Rome, where doctors had agreed to take over his treatment at no cost. Pope Francis had arranged free medical transport, and the Italian government had granted Alfie citizenship to facilitate his transfer. A hospital in Munich had also offered to relieve British doctors of the burden of caring for Alfie.
But the court ruled that it was in Alfie’s “best interests” to die. Doctors had told the court he might “be able to muster just a handful of breaths and survive just a few minutes if ventilation were completely stopped.” In fact, he kept fighting to live for five full days without life support. A phalanx of police officers was posted outside his hospital, holding the child hostage in order to ensure that his mom and dad did not try to take him away while the death sentence was carried out.
This is, quite simply, tyrannical. It is one thing for a judge to decide that British taxpayers should not have to bear the cost of what doctors in its national health service have concluded is futile treatment. Under a single-payer system, resources are limited and care is rationed (which is why we don’t want socialized medicine here in America). But where does a British court get the right to deny the child life-extending treatment abroad when someone else is willing to pay for it? Who gave the British state the right to determine what kind of life is worth living and for how long?
Diabolically, High Court Justice Anthony Hayden actually cited the pope in justifying his decision to end Alfie’s life, quoting out-of-context a speech Francis gave in which he warned against “the temptation to insist on treatments that have powerful effects on the body, yet at times do not serve the integral good of the person.” But Francis also declared in that speech that decisions about whether to continue treatment “should be made by the patient.” Nowhere did he say such decisions should be made by the state. And indeed, the pontiff made clear he stood with Alfie’s parents, tweeting, “I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.” For the British High Court to twist the pope’s words to justify killing a little boy is monstrous.
The culture of death is on the march across Europe. CBS News recently reported that Iceland was on the verge of “eliminating” Down syndrome, not by some medical miracle but because the country’s abortion rate for Down syndrome babies is close to 100 percent. Now, with Alfie Evans and previously Charlie Gard, British courts have ordered the death of disabled children over the objections of parents.
That is barbaric. Nikolaus Haas, a German physician who had offered to take over Alfie’s care, told the court, “Because of our history in Germany, we’ve learned that there are some things you just don’t do with severely handicapped children. A society must be prepared to look after these severely handicapped children and not decide that life support has to be withdrawn against the will of the parents.” Hayden declared this “inflammatory.” In fact, the comparison is spot on. London survived the Blitz to stop the advance of a regime bent on the eugenic killing of, among others, the handicapped. Now Britain has such a regime anyway, by self-imposed judicial fiat.
Unless Americans are vigilant, it is only a matter of time before it happens here.
Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group