Charlie Gard’s parents are embroiled in the fight for their son’s life and — importantly — the fight for their right to be parents.
Diagnosed with a rare mitochondrial disease, a condition that disables the cells of the body from functioning adequately, little Charlie — who is not yet a year old — has been on life support. And the British courts, not his parents, are assuming responsibility for his life.
Why? Because doctors have determined that his brain function is beyond repair.
Let me be the first physician to say that those doctors may not be right. Time and again, in my 30 years of practicing pediatrics, I have seen children declared brain-dead by physicians — only to recover and regain brain function.
Sometimes these children’s brains recover well, sometimes only minimally; but that’s not the point. The “right” here belongs to the child’s parents, not physicians or the government, to decide what they want for their child.
And, wouldn’t you know — early this afternoon, Great Ormond Street Hospital in the U.K. declared that “claims of new evidence” in the treatment of the child have prompted it to request a new court hearing. The hospital said in a statement, “We have just met with Charlie’s parents to inform them of this decision … We believe, in common with Charlie’s parents, it is right to explore this evidence,” as Sky News reported.
The truth is, medicine is an art as well as a science. If my child were declared brain-dead, I would not pull the plug. No parent should be forced to remove life support from a child because there is a whole lot about the child’s brain that we really don’t understand.
I have practiced medicine long enough to know that even the smartest among us don’t have a crystal ball — and that miracles really can happen. And when it comes to Charlie Gard’s parents, they should reserve the right to choose whether they want to hope and pray for a miracle, or whether they want their son to go on and die from his disease’s natural progression. No physician or physicians should be choosing to remove life support.
When it comes to death and dying, no parent should have the right to choose his child’s future to be taken away. Parents are in charge of their children for a very simple and yet profound reason. They — not a physician or the government — gave the child life in the first place.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the new book, “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing, May 2017), as well as a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.