UNITED KINGDOM, September 7, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A new measure introduced in the British Parliament Tuesday evening would give new options and protection to children in situations similar to Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans.
Charlie’s Law would require hospitals to attempt to resolve disputes with parents via mediation before going to the courts, mandate access to clinical ethics committees to advise both doctors and parents on life-or-death decisions, and allow parents to seek treatment elsewhere if unsatisfied with their current hospital.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern began the process of introducing the law this week, the UK Daily Mail reports, via an amendment to the Mental Capacity Bill that would first enact the first two proposals for adults, with the third proposal following it. All three policies would then be extended to children.
“Everyone agrees we need a solution to prolonged and distressing legal conflicts over medical treatment,” he said. “I am happy to have laid this amendment which seeks to prevent cases reaching court unnecessarily. This is a proportionate and long-overdue measure which I hope will be the first small step toward realising Charlie’s Law.”
The law is named after Charlie Gard, a sick UK infant whose parents were denied the opportunity to seek treatment for mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome outside the country. He died at the age of eleven months in 2017. Despite Charlie’s story sparking worldwide horror, UK hospitals and authorities imposed the same restrictions, with the same outcome, on 23-month-old Alife Evans earlier this year.
Charlie’s Law has the support of numerous esteemed medical authorities. They include Baroness Hollins, former president of the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists; Dominic Wilkinson (who initially opposed Charlie’s parents but has since changed his mind), a neonatologist, Oxford medical ethics professor, and associate editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics; and Oxford medical ethicist Julian Savulescu.
“Charlie’s Law is an important step forwards into the 21st century,” Savulescu said. “The dispute at the heart of the case of Charlie Gard was fundamentally ethical, not medical. It was about what constitutes a child’s best interests.”
“Throughout the bewildering aftermath [of Charlie’s death], there has been one constant: our unwavering belief that something had to change to ensure that other parents do not have to go through the same heartrending battle we fought to try to save the life of our son,” Charlie’s mother Connie Yates wrote. “It would, we agreed, be our way of honouring him and making sure his short life was not in vain.”
She said she and Charlie’s father Chris Gard are “absolutely delighted” to see Charlie’s Law introduced. Their son’s diagnosis was already “its own kind of hell,” one only “exacerbated” by the medical and legal battle they found themselves in.
“The introduction of better access to mediation and medical ethics committees, combined with the right for parent to seek treatment for their children that won’t cause them harm would – we believe – help eliminate some of the conflict that can all too easily arise between medical professionals and parents in complex cases,” Yates predicted.
Alfie’s battle and subsequent death resulted in multiple comparisons to Charlie’s case, including renewed calls for legal reform. MEP Steven Woolfe, who repeatedly advocated for Alfie throughout the ordeal, championed Alfie’s Law, another proposal that he argued would give parents an impartial advocate to represent their interests, provide financial aid for legal appeals if necessary, and guarantee parents the right to a second opinion from a medical professional of their choice, who was independent from the National Health Service.
“Neither of us will rest until we know that the law ensures that other families will be spared our heartache in [the] future and will not have to live with the ‘what ifs’ like we do,” Yates vowed.