Charlie Gard is an 11-monthold baby in England who has what appears to be an incurable and terminal disease. The doctors and hospital there have given up hope, and his parents almost had, too, until they heard that there might be one last treatment or therapy which could possibly help him. The single-payer health-care system there wasn’t going to pay for such a experimental treatment in another country.
So Charlie’s parents crowdsourced $1.7 million to help pay the costs, including to transport little Charlie across the Atlantic. New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital offered to use its facilities to try the treatment. Despite the parents’ hopes to take their child to America, the British hospital refused.
The case was appealed, but a court in England refused to let Charlie go. It was then appealed to the European Union’s high court. It also refused.
Upon hearing this, the Pope in Rome offered to receive Charlie at its hospital where the treatments could be tried. Donald Trump also offered any support the United States could provide to help Charlie. It is hard to think of Charlie having any greater offers of support.
There was another court hearing on Monday, and the parents were given 48 hours to present evidence that this treatment might work. It’s understandable that England’s single-payer health-care system would not pay any of these expenses. Indeed, an insurance company in America probably would not pay for such an experimental procedure, either. But Charlie’s parents are not asking anyone else to pay expenses. They raised the money themselves to try to save the life of their own child.
They have the support of the Pope, the president of the United States, and generous donors from around the world. But in this case, the government owned-and-operated single-payer health-care system says it knows what’s best for Charlie, not his family.
We certainly understand the debates over the enormous cost of end-of-life health-care expenses. But it seems that debate is irrelevant in Charlie’s case, since Charlie’s family has raised donations from around the world in one last chance to save his life.
This entire situation raises the specter of what America would look like under a single-payer health-care system. We can see the government making economic decisions on what drugs and treatments patients should receive, which is troubling enough. But once it gets to make all the decisions, not just economic ones, it can then make moral decisions, indeed end-of-life decisions, that are not even tied to health-care costs.
We have to wonder if Bernie Sanders had a grandchild who was in an identical situation to Charlie, and we had a single-payer healthcare system in America, and Bernie’s fans had raised $1.7 million for one last chance to save his life, how Bernie and his wife would feel if a bureaucrat and a court told him no.
We can’t imagine that happening in America. Hopefully it never will.