London, England, Jun 22, 2017 / 02:01 am
Legal efforts to bar the parents of a British baby born with a disabling medical condition from seeking treatment overseas are based on deep ethical errors, a Catholic expert in medical ethics has warned.
“It seems to me completely wrongheaded that the state should be stepping in here when the decision that the parents are making is really aimed at the best interests of the child,” Dr. Melissa Moschella, a Catholic University of America philosophy professor, told CNA.
“It’s not crazy, it’s not abusive, it’s not neglectful. It’s the decision of parents who want to, however they can, to give their very sick child a chance for life.”
She said such a decision “should be completely within the prerogative of the parent,” citing the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to Moschella, that declaration “clearly indicates that the parents, not the state will have primarily responsibility.”
Charlie Gard, now aged 10 months, is believed to suffer from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness. The disorder is believed to affect fewer than 20 children worldwide. Charlie has been in intensive care since October 2016. He has suffered significant brain damage due to the disease and is currently fed through a tube. He breathes with an artificial ventilator and is unable to move.
His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have wanted to keep him on life support and transport him to the United States in order to try an experimental treatment.
However, their decision was challenged in court by hospitals and an attorney appointed to represent Charlie. The parents appealed a High Court decision, and their appeal to the U.K.’s Supreme Court was rejected.
Their final legal challenge is presently before the European Court of Human Rights. The court has said Charlie must continue to receive treatment until its judges make a decision.