I’ve thought long and hard about what I think about Charlie Gard, but then I came to realise very recently that it’s not all about Charlie Gard at all. It’s really all about everyone else. You might say I’ve got no right to have an opinion on Charlie Gard anyway, though the fact he’s been headline news for so long at least makes it as much my business as it does yours. Unless you’re the Gard’s, in which case it’s far more your business than mine.
The real crux of the issue with this case is who gets the right to do what with whom and when and how. I don’t need to fill you in on the whole soap opera (and it is a soap opera, albeit one without any comedic relief) because you can read all about it in the places where you can read all about it. The case already has a substantial Wikipedia page, certainly a lot bigger than mine.
I’d love to have one, simple take on it. For instance I’d like to say that while life is precious it’s very hard to put a final figure on it. I don’t know how much my life is worth though I imagine you probably wouldn’t need long on a calculator to reach it. Calculating the value of a little button of a boy is just as tricky but it’s reasonable to say that his parents have reached a higher sum than anyone else.
This won’t be the same value as the one the British courts have come to, but then they have other things to consider. The million plus pounds the Gard’s have raised just doesn’t cover all bases and the courts have ruled out the option of American intervention (but that may because it will invariably verge on quackery, delusion and clutching at straws). All things considered it’s probably a good thing not to prolong the misery of a situation that in the end only ever had a fraction of a percent of a chance of a happy ending.
Other questions do emerge though. How much can one child cost when another is being beaten senseless by their parents, perhaps a stones throw away? Or is starved every night? Or being used to put cigarettes out on? Or is just found wrapped in a plastic bag behind a skip? We are having far too many children as it is so where should we draw the line that divides the ones with good and bad parents? The ones who will have the luxury of unconditional love in the first place from the rest? Perhaps the courts should spend a bit of time weighing these things up and deciding what the best policy for all children is.
The cathedral of Great Ormond Street Hospital doesn’t come out looking too good either. For decades they’ve liked to think they have been the warm, cuddly, stroke-able face of this country’s health service though you can’t help but feel that for every child that gets great care and every chance of a happy lot there are several others somewhere else lying clinging to life with things bipping pointlessly around them. I may well be wrong there but what I do know is that GOSH drains a hell of a lot of talent away from the NHS, because what consultant wouldn’t get closer to a big hug from Lenny Henry by saying that’s where they worked?
My final observation is the one that really gets stuck in my teeth. I used to be sick and tired of hearing about the poor buggers with terminal diseases or relatives with crippling dementia (or even worse) being knocked back by the high courts on their request for a dignified and quick way to die. Now I’m fucking sick and fucking tired of hearing them. At first I thought Charlie Gard should be put out of his misery tout suite, but the longer he’s been kept going the more our legal system has been found wanting. The simple irony is that some judge can say the Gard’s can’t do anything to save their son but if you’re 78 and confined to a wheelchair while living with a terminal illness and actively WANT to die then sorry, you’ll just have to endure the misery for a while longer.
And that, dear reader, is madness.
G B Hewitt. 26.07.2017