Charlie Gard, the 11-month-old British baby who suffers from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, an extremely debilitating and rare neurological disease, was given an 11-day stay of execution by a British judge on July 14. That may appear to be a sensational way of describing the situation facing the child and his parents, but in terms of the potential outcome, it is essentially accurate.
Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where Charlie is being kept alive and given only palliative care while his future is fought out in court, have said his condition is hopeless and he should be allowed to die – which is expected to happen as soon as life support in hospital is removed. His parents want to take him to the United States, where treatment has been offered by Columbia University in a department that specializes in a range of neurological disorders including the one that Charlie has.
On July 14, it was announced that Michio Hirano, M.D., an acknowledged American expert in the field at the Columbia University Medical Center, would travel to England next week to assess the boy’s condition and, presumably, testify in person in court that Columbia’s experimental treatment has an “11% to 56% chance of clinically meaningful improvement” in Charlie’s condition. That is the essence of the testimony Dr. Hirano gave to the court in his communication by video from New York on Thursday, July 13. Dr. Hirano also told the court that “the baby’s MRI scan did not necessarily indicate structural damage to the brain” – which contradicts what the physicians in Britain are claiming. In response to the emergency hearing on July 13, the judge of the High Court said he would hear more evidence in the case and render a final verdict of life or death for Charlie by July 25.
Dr. Hirano’s page at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons presents a picture of a world-renowned genius-level researcher and clinician. Dr. Hirano, a physician with 30 years’ experience, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and received his M.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He currently serves as chief of the Neuromuscular Division, co-director of the CUMC (Columbia University Medical Center) Muscular Dystrophy Association clinic, and director of the H. Houston Merritt Center for Muscular Dystrophy and Related Diseases. Dr. Hirano is also the Medical Director of Columbia’s Laboratory of Molecular Neurogenetics – Laboratory of Metabolic and Mitochondrial Disease. His research focuses on mitochondrial diseases and genetic myopathies. Since 2005, Dr. Hirano has received individually or with his colleagues almost two dozen research grants from the National Institutes of Health. He has authored or co-authored scores of scientific articles in his specialty published in the peer-reviewed medical literature.
To the credit of Charlie’s parents, they have managed to connect with the clinician and researcher who appears to be one of the – if not the – world’s leading expert(s) on Charlie’s condition. Meanwhile, Dr. Hirano and his colleagues at Columbia are willing to treat Charlie.
In the medically backward United Kingdom that has suffered under the yoke of socialized medicine since the imposition of the National Health Service in 1948, innovations in medicine and cutting edge research are seriously lacking. For example, Great Britain has nothing resembling a facility like Dr. Hirano’s leading edge research and treatment facility at Columbia University. The U.K. also has some of the worst health outcomes of any country in the Western world. The country, where rationing of medical care has become a fact of life due to limitations in funding imposed by the government, also claims the power to control the lives of its citizens cradle to grave, including, as in this case, the right of a minor patient to be taken to another country by his parents for treatment. Sitting here in the relative freedom of the United States, it is difficult to imagine the draconian power over the citizenry that resides in the U.K.’s National Health Service and the country’s courts that are employed, when deemed necessary, to uphold the rigid opinions of closed-minded doctors.
The reluctance of Charlie Gard’s British doctors and the courts in the U.K. to see any hope for the boy in a promising innovative experimental therapy has received some support in the U.S., mostly from leftist statists, but also surprisingly from author and commentator Charles Krauthammer, himself a medical doctor and a psychiatrist, who called reports that Charlie might be helped by therapy in the United States “a cruel hoax.”
More typical of concerns about the case expressed by American conservatives are comments by Ed Morrisey who, on July 14, wrote at Hot Air:
“It’s mighty generous of the judge to allow for an outside opinion by a specialist in the field. Until now, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the courts have all claimed to have the entirety of information needed to deny the child any other attempts at care, despite the private resources his parents have raised to get it. Remember well that had this court and the Great Ormond Street Hospital gotten its way, this would have been an autopsy rather than an examination. Charlie Gard was supposed to have been disconnected from the ventilator two weeks ago.”
The situation regarding the fate of Charlie Gard that is playing out in England, which has captured world attention, is the clearest current example of what government-run, socialized medicine results in – that is, total control of the population, with bureaucrats able to directly and with finality influence the course of everyone’s life and death. The news about Charlie Gard (and his parents) vs. the state should raise serious alarms here as Democrat politicians in the United States increasingly promote the imposition of a scheme similar to the one in the U.K. – single-payer socialized medicine. In this author’s opinion, it’s a prescription for death. © by Peter Chowka
Peter Chowka has reported on health care, with an emphasis on alternative medicine, since 1972. Between 1992 and 1994 he was an adviser to the National Institutes of Health. His new website is AltMedNews.net.