Politics & Policy

Charlie Gard and the Moral Decline of Europe

(Stock image: Sailanalt/Dreamstime)
The Gard case is yet more evidence of the rise of a culture that fails to properly value human life.

Pope Francis and President Trump agree: Sentencing a baby to death is simply wrong. These two men form the twin pillars of a peculiar alliance against Europe’s expanding culture of death, and the irony is frightening. After all, what does it say about the state of European society when it cedes a man who is perhaps the most vulgar president in American history the moral high ground?

At this point, the facts of the case are well-known. Charlie Gard is an infant with a rare genetic condition, and he is being kept on life support in a London hospital. The European Court of Human Rights sided with the doctors who want to take Charlie off life support rather than let his parents take him to the United States for an experimental treatment.

A Vatican spokesman reported that the pope is praying for the parents and hopes “that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end is not ignored.” An Italian hospital has offered to care for Gard. President Trump tweeted his willingness to help the parents if possible. As it stands, Gard’s life remains in limbo.

It’s all emblematic of a broader moral decay in Europe, one in which the value of life is increasingly subject to utilitarian calculations, while ideas of ingrained human dignity and intrinsic worth are falling by the wayside. Euthanasia is a centerpiece of this encroaching culture of death, and the slope is slippery. Wesley J. Smith has highlighted how safeguards have failed to prevent the practice’s abuse:

Since first permitted in the 1970s, the Netherlands has always had a problem with doctors killing patients who have not asked for euthanasia. Despite that being murder under the law, nothing substantial is ever done about it.

In 2015, Smith found that over 400 patients in the Netherlands were killed without explicitly requesting euthanasia.

It gets worse.

In 2016, Dutch physicians “killed about one mentally ill patient each week.” Charles Lane has identified additional egregious practices in both Belgium and the Netherlands. In the latter, for example, “right-to-die activists opened a clinic in March 2012 to ‘help’ people turned down for lethal injections by their regular physicians.” This clinic killed almost a dozen people whose sole reason for requesting euthanasia was being “tired of living.”

In 2016, Dutch physicians ‘killed about one mentally ill patient each week.’

Pope Francis once characterized global malaise as the product of a “throwaway culture.” This is a particularly apt description of the increasingly dominant attitude toward life in Europe: Its value is reduced to a function of economics and pleasure. If it isn’t useful, productive, or joyful, then it isn’t worth living.

More pernicious, however, is the precedent Gard’s case sets for allowing judicial despots and bureaucrats to dictate whether a life is worthy of being saved. The Gard case further undermines the notion that euthanasia is about freedom and choice; on the contrary, it is blatantly totalitarian. The European Court of Human Rights has assumed quasi-divine status by claiming it has the right to determine who can live and who can die.

This is apparently what “progress” looks like: barbarism disguised as mercy. It is the logical consequence of a culture experiencing moral decay, for when society does not protect the lives of those who cannot speak for themselves, the throwaway culture thrives.


The Court-Ordered Killing of Charlie Gard

Why Rome’s Statement on Charlie Gard Was So Devastating

The Vatican’s Statement on the Charlie Gard Case Is a Disgrace

Jeff CimminoJeff Cimmino is an editorial intern at National Review. He is a junior pursuing a B.A. in history and a minor in government at Georgetown University. Cimmino was the founding ...


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