Charlie Gard was killed: the State decides about life and death, and the special tribunals of totalitarian regimes are back on the scene. Statement by the Observatory Cardinal Van Thuân on the Social Doctrine of the Church.

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On 28 July 2017 the machinery ventilating Charlie Gard’s lungs was turned off and he died. This induced death took place in a room of a hospice for terminally ill patients whose address was not rendered public pursuant to a court decision.

Practically all the mass media, unfortunately including Catholic ones as well, duly reported this infant’s death almost as if the demise itself was due to the natural outcome of the grave dysfunction affecting him, but no one informed anyone that this infant had been killed. In fact, this is a clear cut case of infantile euthanasia since eliminated had been ventilation which in no way whatsoever is to be considered a  form of therapy – just like hydration and nutrition – and does not cause pain. This infant was killed and not accompanied by health care personnel and his parents to his natural death  simply because someone decreed that his life was senseless.

Behind all this is both a law and a court sentence that has created  jurisprudence. Eluana Englaro was killed in the absence of a law and only in the wake of a decision handed down by a court. The purpose of what are known in Italy as ‘end-of-life’ laws should have been to avoid such sentences, but things happened just the other way around and nowadays such death sentences are passed under the protective umbrella of legislation in force.

The fact that life and death may be decided by national legislation and pursuant to a court sentence is horribly grave to the nth degree. Our western democracies have revived the special tribunals we had experienced during totalitarian dictatorships. No one is the master of life, no one can decide when life is worth something and when it isn’t. If politics assumes ownership of this right it establishes an arbitrary criterion with respect to which conscientious objection is out of the question and the only course of action is dutiful submission to power itself.

Little Charlie wasn’t subjected to excessive therapy. In fact, keeping a person alive or accompanying that person with palliative treatment towards his/her natural death has nothing to do with excessive therapy. The law prevented the parents from accessing new experimental treatments, thereby causing so much precious time to be lost. The law didn’t even permit the parents to take their baby son home, perhaps out of fear they would not have ‘pulled the plug’. The law decreed that Charlie was to be killed in a place that was to remain unknown in order to avoid both protest marches and the intrusion of the mass media which proved to be readily subservient. All these legal ploys in courts of law and the way this life was brought to an end deserve nothing less than the full brunt of our disdainful repulsion.