WASHINGTON – Charlie Gard has found a powerful ally in the United States.
Just days ago, the March for Life held a news conference along with other pro-life leaders in the U.S. to show support for the 11-month-old British infant who suffers from a rare genetic mutation of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.
Britain’s High Court has ruled that Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Charlie is being treated, should take him off life support, which is against the wishes of his parents. They have raised more than $1.8 million to bring Charlie either to the U.S. or to Rome for treatment, but the British government has denied them permission.
In the past two weeks, a highly successful social media campaign has promoted awareness for Charlie and his tragic situation. And last Thursday, March for Life, which has a high social-media profile, joined the campaign, drawing up a petition to the hospital to let Charlie live and allow his parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, to take him abroad for treatment.
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini told WND she sees the issue as a crucial one for advocates of parental and family rights, especially when it comes to end-of-life care.
“At its crux, what’s happening over in England is the broader question about who has the right to make that decision about when to end treatment. Is it the state, or is it the family?” Mancini said. “We hold that the family are the best caregivers, and that the responsibility of such a critical life-or-death situation like that should not be left in the hands of the state.”
Mancini noted some of the similarities and differences in the cases of Charlie and Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who was, on a court’s order, deprived of both food and water, at the request of her husband, until she died in 2005.
“Terri didn’t have a diagnosis of MDDS. Terri wasn’t likely to die. Terri’s basic needs were removed from her. Her basic nutrition and hydration were removed from her. So Terri’s was a situation where, while her brain was lacking in normal activity, she had everything she needed to live a long life. She was starved to death.”
On the other hand, Charlie requires much more than food and water to live.
“Charlie is on extraordinary means right now,” Mancini explained. “What we’re talking about right now is the removal of extraordinary means. If the family discerns that that was OK with them, morally and ethically that would be perfectly fine, because he’s living by extra help right now.”
It is up to parents to decide if the chance that their child will live warrants the extraordinary means it takes to keep him alive. And in the case of Charlie Gard, they have chosen to try to keep him alive for treatment.
What’s at stake here, according to Mancini, is the parent’s right to do that, which is being infringed by the state.
“If I were in [Charlie’s mother] Connie’s position, I would want to keep extraordinary means,” Mancini said. “And 10 percent [chance that treatment would heal Charlie], one in 10? That’s great! If it were my little boy, I would do everything possible to make sure that he has every chance at life. If Charlie’s still fighting, as they’ve said, they’re still fighting, and I would approach it in the exact same way.”
Such violation of individual rights is a common result of a socialized health-care system, Mancini said, warning such cases may happen in the U.S. if its pursuit of socialized medical care continues.
“Very, very broadly, we’ve been moving in the direction of socialized medicine,” she said, “and that’s the situation, broadly, in England, and it would be my strong hope and desire that we not continue to move in that direction.”
Mancini said those concerned about those parental rights and Charlie’s life can join the social media campaign.
“Any of the different mediums, whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, what have you, I think to continue to post positive messages with some of the hashtags that are already out there, such as #CharliesFight, #IStandWithCharlie, #IAmCharlieGard, or just #CharlieGard – any of those hashtags. I think that’s been very powerful, and I think that that’s been the difference, drawing some attention to this and then the court of course reconsidering their options.”
The social media campaign has already been very effective, with Charlie’s parents turning in a petition to GOSH with over 350,000 signatures and the March for Life adding another with 8,000 signatures. “#CharlieGard” has trended on Twitter, and it has caused doctors and parents who have dealt with similar diseases to come forward with new evidence that it might be possible for Charlie to be healed, leading to a new court hearing scheduled for Thursday.
Mancini said the most powerful tool is prayer and fasting, as described in the Bible.
“We are praying that God will allow a miracle of healing for Charlie,” Mancini said. “Realistically, his health situation is such that it requires a lot of hope, and even a miracle of healing. Let’s all join together in praying for that. We also need to be praying for a miracle of freedom, that his parents will be able to decide how best to treat their little boy. That second thing that we’re praying for shouldn’t be a need. We shouldn’t have to pray for the miracle of freedom that his parents will have the opportunity to decide how to treat little Charlie.”
She continued: “Don’t get me wrong. I think Charlie is a special scenario. He’s on the world’s stage, his diagnosis is on the world’s stage, and I have every hope that a miracle can and will happen here.”
At a hearing Monday, Judge Nicholas Francis, who earlier ruled that Charlie’s life support should be ended and that it would take something “dramatic” to change his mind, said Charlie’s life support should continue until the court reviews the medical options and holds a further hearing.
Hospitals in America have volunteered to help the infant, as has Bambino Gesu in Rome, the Vatican’s pediatric hospital.
Another option being explored to get Charlie out of Britain for treatment has been proposed by two members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Reps. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, and Trent Franks, R-Ariz. They intend to introduce legislation this week that would grant Charlie lawful permanent residency in the U.S.
Whether or not the British government would let Charlie travel to the U.S. if the legislation passes is unclear.
At the Thursday hearing, the judge is expected to hear all additional evidence and testimony.
The infant has brain damage, is blind and deaf, and needs a ventilator to breathe.
According to LifeNews, the baby’s parents also have sought help from Terri Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler.
Schindler said Charlie’s situation is “very reminiscent of my family’s battle to save my sister, Terri.”
“Hopefully being here can help his parents, Connie and Charlie, deal with the day-to-day emotional roller coaster, as they fight for their son’s right to live,” he said.
Terri Schindler Schiavo died in 2005 after a court ordered removal of her feeding tube and water at the request of her husband.
Schindler told LifeNews he is calling for Britain to honor the wishes of Charlie’s parents and allow him to travel and receive the medical help he needs.
He said he will oversee a campaign to ensure the family is not removed from the decision-making regarding Charlie’s well-being, LifeNews reported.
WND reported earlier this year on the 12th anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo. The media and her husband, Michael Schiavo, asserted Terri was in a “persistent vegetative state,” but her parents and brother, Bobby Schindler, insisted otherwise, claiming she was able to swallow, laugh and express love for her family.
In 1990, Terri, at age 26, collapsed in her St. Petersburg, Florida, home for a reason that still hasn’t been explained and was taken to a hospital by first responders who feared she was dead. She was comatose for a time, then started responding and was moved to a care center. Her family members say she was getting better before her court-ordered starvation.
WND has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002. Read WND’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of Terri Schindler Schiavo’s life-and-death fight, including more than 150 original stories and columns.