Charlie Gard and The 'Right to Die' Epidemic

July 11, 2017Jul 11, 2017

11-month-old Charlie Gard, and his parents’ fight to get him treatment for his mitochondrial depletion disorder has captivated the whole world. Little Charlie puts an innocent, lovable face on a much more widespread issue: a shift of the purpose of medicine.

In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register, Wesley J. Smith from Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism explained how the emphasis is now placed on quality of life rather than the purpose of medicine being to save lives. “They judge value based on a quality of life ethic, and if the quality of life is too low, the predominate view is that it in the best interests—and in some cases, of society—for the very ill or disabled patient to die,” he told NCR.

Euthanasia isn't just about terminal diseases 

In Scandinavian countries, the quality of life ethic plays an especially aggressive role in medicine. In a Newsweek article, Winston Ross interviewed a Dutch woman who wanted to be euthanized if she’s permanently lame, can no longer leave her house on her own, is dependent on others for her care, or goes blind or deaf or suffers from dementia.

This woman is far from alone. Ross writes that in 2013, 4,829 people in the Netherlands chose to have a doctor end their lives. “That’s one in every 28 deaths in the Netherlands, and triple the number of people who died this way in 2002.”

Dutch doctors also don’t require proof of a terminal illness. People can choose to die because they’re depressed or lonely—or even if they have a disability such as Autism that they’re tired of living. Euthanasia is also decriminalized for parents with disabled infants. Even children can have assisted suicides. “Children ages 12 to 15 may ask to die if they can get parents’ permission. After age 16, young people can make the decision with only ‘parental involvement,’” relates Ross.

The number of the people in the Netherlands who want to end their lives continues to rise. Between 2010 and 2015, there was a huge spike in Right to Die-Netherlands membership—from about 120,000 in 2010 to 160,000 in 2015. In 2014, Right to Die-Netherlands even used its funding surplus to open a mobile clinic. Ross adds, “Twenty-three nurse-doctor teams now stand ready to be dispatched to people’s homes—to dispatch those people."

And it isn't just in Scandinavia 

The Dutch model of decriminalized euthanasia is spreading. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down a ban on physician-assisted suicide in 2015, joining Luxembourg, Belgium, and Switzerland on the list of Western countries where euthanasia is fully legal. In 2016, France passed a sedated dying law as a compromise.

The sentiment has also spread to the U.S. In 2014. Assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Washington, and Vermont; in New Mexico and Montana, doctors are permitted to prescribe medication to end patients’ lives. One woman’s quest to end her life—Brittany Maynard—even made national news. In 2008, Oregon Medicaid officials even offered a couple assisted suicide coverage after refusing to cover their cancer treatments. “The more government officials will back away from paying to treat its weakest members,” says Wesley J. Smith.

Do some people have less inherent value? 

To bring this back to Charlie’s case, it’s important to note that the British Court’s essential argument is a quality of life argument. They say that the state must protect the child’s interests, and they believe it’s in his best interests to be dead.

“This argument is chilling, because it’s the basis for a regime of compulsory, state-sponsored euthanasia. Charlie’s case is extreme, and the withdrawal of life support feels different from giving terminally ill children lethal injections (or aborting genetically defective children in the womb),” says R.R. Reno, editor of First Things, “But the logic is the same. And it is ominous—especially given the increasing frequency of involuntary euthanasia in European countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium, and the widespread use of abortion as a form of euthanasia.”

It’s especially chilling given a new Gallup poll, which says 73% of Americans support the right to euthanasia. How far will people go, and why do they insist on determining whose life has value? If a child has autism, do they have less value than a child who does not have value who is “normal”? Does an elderly person have less inherent value than a healthy college student? The right to die rhetoric seems to say yes. The Bible says no; we’re all children of God made in His image.