35

According to a blog post by the Mises Institute:

...the court system in the United Kingdom, at the behest of National Health Service bureaucrats, abducted and murdered an 8-month-old baby...

...the courts in the UK ruled that Charlie Gard, against the wishes of his parents, must be immediately removed from life support and left to die. Unlike cases in the US where it is usually the family that is arguing for or against extending hope that their loved ones can be rescued, the only people arguing against continued efforts were government officials and some third party public onlookers. What makes the Charlie Gard case so disturbing is that this is a case where no family member made any argument to remove the child from life support. The government simply overruled them and took their child.

Is this an accurate account of what occurred?

88

Not according to the BBC

Doctors had argued that continuing life-support treatment would not benefit Charlie but "prolong the process of dying".

A lawyer representing Great Ormond Street Hospital said: "This is not pioneering or life-sustaining treatment, but a purely experimental process with no real prospect of improving Charlie's condition or quality of life.".

and from the Guardian

In his full ruling, Francis said that no one with Charlie’s mutation had ever been treated with the nucleoside therapy proposed, adding that a US expert had said there was no direct evidence it could improve the child’s condition, just a theoretical scientific basis it could help. The US doctor later acknowledged, after seeing documents about the severity of the condition, that it was “very unlikely” that Charlie would improve with that therapy.

so while the court did rule that the child should be taken off life-support, the claim that "the only people arguing against continued efforts were government officials and some third party public onlookers." clearly isn't true as the child's doctors and the hospital were arguing against continuing treatment. It is nothing to do with the government AFAICS, but the medics and the judiciary, although it appears to have raised concerns about the availability of legal aid in such cases.

Very sad case, and a difficult ethical position for all concerned, but the blog article is not an accurate representation, based on these reports.

From the blog article "Except a major feature of the free market, private charity, kicked in wonderfully." seems a rather "nuanced" view to me. Private charities are not a particular feature of free markets. "As government court systems are wont to do, they sided with themselves" the U.K. judicial system is independent of what would be considered there as "government", and quite frequently go against it (see here for a recent notable example). As noted by @GordonM the language of the blog post is rather hyperbolic. These things, considered together, do not give [me] confidence that the blog is unbiased and without agenda.

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    I suspect the blog meant "government" in the general sense of "the entire governmental system," which necessarily includes (non-private) courts, not in the Westminster sense of "the current Parliamentary leadership." – jwodder May 4 '17 at 13:46
  • 41
    You might want to add that Charlie Gard is still alive, as of 04/05/2017, over a week after his alleged "abduction and murder". – Agent_L May 4 '17 at 15:09
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    @JaysonVirissimo Being English, I can tell you I would never assume someone saying "Government" without explicitly saying so was including the courts or judicial system. For one the Judicial Appointments Commission has control over judge selection and is independent of the Government, and in fact in many ways is there to balance and oppose the Government and ensure it cannot dominate legally. The UK also does not use district attorneys or any equivalent and very few judicial positions are political or elected. Losing that "aside" would be misleading, as it is a key part of the issue here. – Vality May 4 '17 at 17:35
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    @JaysonVirissimo I disagree, the blog appears to draw incorrect inferences by treating the judicial system in the U.K. as if it was like that which exists in the USA, which it isn't. ""As government court systems are wont to do, they sided with themselves" it isn't a "government court system" in the U.K. in the way it is in the US. It may be an American blog post, but it discusses the U.K. judicial system, so it needs to use terminology that will not mislead the reader, for instance implying that the judiciary was siding with "another branch of government", rather than acting independently. – Dikran Marsupial May 4 '17 at 18:01
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    @MaciejPiechotka if the target audience was the US, it is even more important that the difference between the US and UK systems is made clear, rather than obfuscated. "I don't think it caused confusion in anyone." evidently it did as the argument made in the blog article was incorrect exactly because the UK has an independent judiciary. – Dikran Marsupial May 5 '17 at 6:53
29

The short answer is No.

I don't understand the use of the words "abduct" and "murder" in the context except as hyperbole and the post seems to have at best a slim grasp of the facts.

The court's decision, summary reasons and judgment are available from Bailii here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2017/972.html.

Why did the court have any say at all? Power is vested by law in the court "exercising its independent and objective judgment in the child's best interests" (para 36). All parties agreed the child lacked capacity to make decisions for his medical treatment. He was represented by a guardian who appointed legal counsel. All parties including the parents agreed the child's "present quality of life is one that is not worth sustaining" (paras 14, 48, 117, 126).

There is a strong presumption in favour of life but it is not absolute (paras 13, 38, 39 vii, 126). The parents' wishes are not paramount (paras 11, 36, 39 x). The "court must do the best it can to balance all the conflicting considerations in a particular case and see where the final balance of the [child's] best interests lies" (paras 11, 13, 38, 39 vi). The court heard from medical experts (paras 15, 18, 21, 33, 35, 63, 91) including an expert witness instructed by the parents who "was able to offer nothing at all to support their case" (paras 91, 92).

The doctor who offered the "pioneering treatment" (that had not been even been tested on mice, para 49) sought by the parents said after discussing with Great Ormand Street's consultant that he "can understand the opinions that he is so severely affected by encephalopathy that any attempt at therapy would be futile. I agree that it is very unlikely that he will improve with that therapy. It is unlikely." (para 18)

The "principal issue" with which the court had to "grapple" was that the treatment was likely futile according to all the experts and it may cause further suffering to the child (para 49).

The court decided that artificial ventilation should be withdrawn and the treating clinicians should provide palliative care only (para 23, 129).

  • 6
    "I don't understand the use of the words 'abduct' and 'murder' in the context except as hyperbole..." So you understand their use perfectly! – David Richerby May 5 '17 at 15:30
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    good job editing – Sklivvz May 5 '17 at 17:00
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    @DavidRicherby The author of the blogpost wrote, "This might sound like a severe bout of hyperbole, but that is exactly what happened." – Lag May 5 '17 at 19:46
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    @ElGuapo Yes, a severe bout of hyperbole is exactly what happened. :-) – David Richerby May 5 '17 at 22:56
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    I don't understand the use of the words "abduct" and "murder" in the context except as hyperbole —"abduct" is clearly not strictly accurate since there wasn't an active movement of the baby, but if you had a loved one about to die in a hospital that refused to let you transfer them to another hospital, I'm sure you'd struggle to find a better word to describe that situation. And "murder" is a matter of semantics; The court ordered an action to be taken that would almost surely end a life. Is that murder? I can definitely see the argument for that, can you really not? – Kevin May 7 '17 at 3:29

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protected by Sklivvz May 5 '17 at 19:28

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