Last April I posted on the story of Charlotte Wyatt, the British infant whose doctors had gone to court to get a “Do Not Resuscitate” order — over the objections of her parents. The doctors’ petition was granted, and to me it as an example of a socialist state demonstrating that it does indeed believe that it owns the children and is also the final arbiter of what constitutes “quality of life.” There is now more to report on this story and on some interesting developments closer to home.
In Charlotte’s case she is now nearly two and a half years old, despite her doctors’ original opinion that she wouldn’t live but a few months, and their later predictions that she wouldn’t survive each of the many challenges she encountered. (She was born at 26 weeks gestation and today her parents readily acknowledge that she has significant developmental issues; their issue all along is that their daughter has the same right to life as a healthier baby.) The judge’s order was never overturned, but it was lifted by the judge last fall when Charlotte’s improving health made it unnecessary. Charlotte’s parents were able to bring her home for an unsupervised visit last Christmas, and earlier this month the hospital indicated that she might soon be released for good. Now, however, she has caught a cold or picked up an infection in the hospital that has become serious and again the judge has instituted the DNR order.
But little ones cannot keep off infections forever, especially in a hospital and in wintertime, and she caught a cold which quickly began to hamper her breathing. In a normal case when your baby is ill the hospital will step up efforts to help. But Charlotte is special, and instead doctors submitted an emergency application to the judge to get permission not to treat her. Yesturday Justice Hedley concurred with them, reversing his previous order. Apparently the baby was on a “downward rather than an upward trend” and therefore not worth saving.
Never mind the vast improvements she had made, the way she had always made stunning recoveries after each of her illnesses, how she had proven the doctors wrong each time. Never mind that she had shown herself a fighter, and with all the strength in her little body was battling for her chance at life.
After all, she was Charlotte, and Charlotte… Charlotte might always be a disabled child. She might never be quite normal, and her joys might never be quite the same as ours. Disabled people aren’t like the rest of us, and when they are sick…they have to be allowed to die.
What has our grand world come to when we can do this, and still walk the streets without shame? How can we pretend we are innocent of a great crime? –for are indeed guilty to if we do not protest. And the measure of a society is in how it treats her most defenseless.
Or if you are a child with special needs, is it only if you can manage to never be ill, never show weakness, always be impoving that you will be considered worth having around? When it comes to the difficult times, will your life never be worth fighting for?
As in April, from this distance I can offer no perspective on Charlotte’s overall health, medical prospects or quality of life. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her parents, however, in saying that her level of care should be up to them and not to the state.
The state’s argument, of course, is that it’s paying the bills and therefore has the right to decide how and when care is appropriated. This position is coincidentally highlighted by this story from the New York Times reporting that an average of one private (and therefore illegal) health clinic per week is opening in our socialized neighbor to the north, Canada. The clinics are opening in response to demand from citizens willing to pay out of their own pockets to get needed surgery to improve the quality of their lives. As the head of one of these new clinics stated, “This is a country where a dog can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which a human can wait two or three years.”
The article also notes that Canada is the only industrialized nation to outlaw privately purchased medical care. The new clinics are encouraged, however, by a Canadian Supreme Court ruling last year that a Quebec provincial ban on private health insurance was unconstitutional when people are suffering and even dying on waiting lists. I suppose if you’re one of those people on a list it’s probably a good thing for you that drugs are so cheap.
But that’s still not the whole story as far as this post is concerned. As Amy Ridenour notes, here’s what one of the leading lights of our own “reality-based community”, Sen. Ted Kennedy, had to say in a speech last year:
…I propose that, as a 40th birthday [of Medicare] gift to the American people, we expand Medicare over the next decade to cover every citizen from birth to the end of life …
… I call this approach Medicare for all, because it will free all Americans from the fear of crippling medical expenses and enable them to seek the best possible care when illness strikes …
… Right-wing forces will unleash false attack ads, ranting against socialized medicine and government-run health care … Today we are immunized against such attacks by the obvious success of Medicare. It is long past time to extend that success to all…
(You can read Kennedy’s entire speech here, but doing so will make you glad you can still buy aspirin over the counter.)
Amy goes on to note that this “successful” plan is currently underfunded for future obligations by $29.7 trillion — more than seven times that of Social Security, and that the system as currently constructed will go broke in 2020, 21 years ahead of Social Security.
We’ve seen what this system leads to in the UK and in Canada, and what is already happening here. And if mental capacity should become a standard for determining whether someone should be resuscitated or not then Sen. Kennedy should look at Charlotte Wyatt and feel humbled … and very, very concerned.
See also, 21st Century British Healthcare.