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Sky Views: Why case of Charlie Gard resonates in US

July 16, 2017 12:15 AM
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Sky Views: Why case of Charlie Gard resonates in US

Americans were introduced to Charlie Gard's plight by a tweet from Donald Trump.

The story of one British family's agony has since become fodder for a familiar cultural argument in the US.

And, as with every other issue these days, everyone seems to have an opinion and most are pretty black and white.

"Societies depend on the principle that parents are their children's best guardians," wrote columnist Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times.

"It's appalling for the state particularly one that runs the healthcare system to claim that it, not the loving parents, have the final say."

In the Washington Examiner, Father Frank Pavone went further: "In this bizarre abuse of power, both the hospital and courts have forgotten basic ethics."

Not surprisingly, it has also been used by opponents of what Americans call "socialised medicine" to hammer the NHS.

"When their son laid dying in a hospital bed, Charlie Gard's parents were denied hope by a country that guaranteed Charlie his right to healthcare," wrote Peter Heck, a "speaker, author and teacher" in the Christian Post.

"I don't want to be that country. I want to be the country they turn to."

The pundits and the public alike made up their minds on Charlie Gard, his family and the British health and legal systems and most ignored some basic facts.

As Jonathan Montgomery, professor of healthcare law at University College London, told the Associated Press: "Unlike the USA, English law is focused on the protection of children's rights.

"The USA is the only country in the world that is not party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; it does not recognise that children have rights independent of their parents."

Of course, it is the debate about abortion which means the "right to life" is still a real and significant issue in American political debate.

Americans United for Life, which brands itself as "America's first national pro-life organisation", sent legal representation to London to fight on behalf of Charlie's parents.

Of course, opposing abortion means, by extension, denying the wishes of a parent seeking one, and the wishes and the rights of the parents are exactly what everyone is debating in Charlie Gard's case.

You might think there is some hypocrisy there but, even if you don't, it reminds us that this isn't a black and white issue.

Similarly, you don't have to talk to many people about this case to hear that doctors are "playing God" with people's lives.

But, if that is the case, aren't those doctors "playing God" when they intervene in the first place?

History has shown us that when the opinion writers and talking heads get on a roll, clarity is rarely the result.

As well-meaning as Donald Trump's tweet was, did it do anything to help Charlie Gard's family?


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