Ill baby was exploited for political purposes
It is unfortunate that a recent letter used the tragic story of Charlie Gard as a springboard to launch an unwarranted attack on the idea of government-ensured affordable health care insurance in general, and the single-payer concept in particular.
The actual facts of the matter are that Charlie was suffering from an extremely rare, and invariably fatal, illness. His condition had advanced to the point where he suffered from severe, irreversible brain damage and was on life support. His doctors determined that further aggressive treatment was futile and that he was suffering needlessly. The hospital administration proposed that life support be withdrawn. His parents disagreed and the matter was referred to the courts. British law requires the courts to consider not just the parents’ wishes, but also the best interests of the child.
The judge initially agreed with the doctors. When the parents proposed that Charlie receive an experimental treatment, which had never been used successfully on a patient in his condition, the court agreed to allow an expert from the United States to examine him. New scans were performed. The expert reviewed them and Charlie’s case. He determined that Charlie was not likely to benefit from the attempt. The court then ordered life support to be withdrawn and Charlie to be transferred to hospice care. From my admittedly distant perspective, I agree with that decision.
To characterize this long and thoughtful process as a government “death panel” pulling the plug merely to save money is inaccurate and dishonest.
As a retired critical care nurse, I know that there is a fine line between intensive care and torture. As the situation becomes increasingly precarious, that line becomes ever finer. For all concerned, to struggle with, and finally accept, that further efforts will be futile and to withdraw aggressive treatment is agonizing. I know this from personal experience, having been involved in this process with family and friends over half a dozen times.
I pray that this unfortunate little boy may now rest in peace, that his parents may find solace and that efforts to exploit his story for political gain come to an end.
Paul M. Gannon, R.N.