On July 28, 2017, one week before his first birthday, Charlie Gard died. Charlie was at the center of a controversy that resonated throughout the world when the British High Court ruled in April 2017 that the hospital be granted permission to remove life support from Charlie against his parents’ wishes.
Charlie Gard suffered from what was called mitochondrial depletion syndrome. It is a debilitating condition for which there are some experimental treatments but no known cure.
Charlie’s case raised three important ethical questions:
- Is there a “presumption to live” for all human life, or are there times when a lower quality of life suggests there is a “presumption to die”?
- When is it appropriate for a court to usurp parental authority when it comes to medical treatment issues?
- What are the ramifications of this case on all other human life when its quality is diminished?
Charlie’s parents wanted to give their child every opportunity to live. They sided with a “presumption to live” ethic which is consistent with Scripture.
Because Scripture teaches us that life is God’s gift and his blessing to us, we then are stewards of it, not owners. To that end, parents are obliged as stewards of their children’s lives to care for them and not take action or, by inaction, accelerate death.
Charlie’s case represents a rejection of the biblical view that human life has intrinsic and inherent value. It is created by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ. To apply subjective quality-of-life criteria to usurp parental authority has no justification in Scripture or natural law.
In the end, Charlie Gard represents the next logical of declining ethics in a society that permits the killing of unborn children and the legalization of self-killing through the assistance of the medical profession. Lacking an objective standard of right and wrong, society continues its spiral of self-destruction.
While we could all wring our hands in lament, the real lesson here is to keep doing what we are supposed to be doing: spreading the truth of God’s Word. Christians individually are to be one-on-one ambassadors of God’s message of sin and salvation. Collectively as congregations we are to be sharing the message of Scripture as a relevant and applicable guide in a world absorbed in selfishness. Our lives are to represent the sacrificial and selfless example of love we know from Jesus Christ.
The calling is as relevant now as ever for us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8). It is obvious that silence on these things can be fatal.