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Friday, June 30, 2017

Should We Torture Babies?

The case of Charlie Gard has reached the inflammatory stage. Charlie Gard is a baby who
  • suffers from an inherited mitochondrial disease called infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, referred to generally as “MDDS”.  He suffers specifically from the RRM2B mutation of MDDS.  
  • In Charlie’s case, his brain, muscle and ability to breathe are all severely affected. In addition, he has congenital deafness and a severe epilepsy disorder. His heart, liver and kidneys are also affected but not severely.  
  • Charlie has severe progressive muscle weakness and cannot move his arms or legs or breathe unaided. No one can be certain whether or not Charlie feels pain.  
  • One of the leading experts in the world with a special interest in mitochondrial diseases has concluded that Charlie has infantile onset RRM2B deficiency which is the most severe form.
Now, I am as pro-life as anyone out there. I've been arrested, twice, for blockading abortion clinics. Even as an atheist, I wrote and spoke constantly in favor of the pro-life position. I defended Lila Rose against the Catholics and other pro-lifers who claimed Lila was committing mortal sin by running con on Planned Parenthood.

If you want street cred, I have as much as any pro-lifer out there.

And, that said, it's not clear to me that encouraging the torture of babies is a pro-life position.

Human life is a very great good, but it is not the greatest good. If it were the greatest good, then martyrdom would be a sin, because the martyr would be voluntarily surrendering his greatest good for a lesser good. Human life is not the greatest good, human salvation is the greatest good. Human life is merely a physical good, human salvation is a moral good.

In the same way, human suffering is not the greatest evil. Now, suffering is a very great physical evil. Suffering is the absence of a physically pain-free existence. But pain is only a natural evil. We are permitted to pursue a natural evil if we see that it can accomplish a moral good. This is why redemptive suffering is an enormously great good. Redemptive suffering is voluntarily giving up a pain-free existence so as to unite my suffering with Christ's suffering on the Cross.

Redemptive suffering is the necessary part of martyrdom, it is the aspect of martyrdom that endows the act of martyrdom with salvific grace. We voluntarily give up a natural good (pain-free physical existence) in order to pursue a moral good (salvation). But, make no mistake: suffering is still a natural evil, it is the removal of a good that should be present. And, while we can make the choice of redemptive suffering for ourselves, we cannot choose it for someone else. I cannot say to the executioner, "I am not strong enough to be a martyr. George is. Torture and kill George."

We cannot pursue a natural evil for ourselves (e.g., the pain of surgery or martyrdom) unless it accomplishes a natural or moral good. And we cannot pursue a natural evil for someone else unless it accomplishes a natural or moral good for them. Thus, we are not permitted to inflict pain on someone without good reason.

This is what we mean when we say "no one may do evil that good may come of it". While we may inflict natural evils, we may not inflict moral evils. We can inflict a natural evil if we have legitimate hope that a natural good greater will result that is greater than the natural evil, we cannot inflict a moral evil at all. Thus, we cannot take a human life (commit murder via euthanasia or abortion), even if this would restore a natural good (e.g., financial well-being to the family, health of the mother). We cannot torture another person, even if we have legitimate reason to hope that the tortured person will give up information that will prevent a great physical catastrophe. Torturing another is mortal sin. If the bomb goes off, the murders are on the soul of the man who withheld the information, those murders are not on the souls of the men who refused to torture him.

Torture is strictly prohibited. Human vivisection, experiment without hope of cure, was what the Nazis did to the Jews in the extermination camps. Human torture, disguised as experimental vivisection on human beings, was declared an international war crime. Even the doctor who invented the nucleoside treatment that the parents want to inflict has publicly admitted the difficulty:
The doctor in the United States has not had the opportunity of examining Charlie but, based on the medical information available to him, has acknowledged that he thinks Charlie “is in the terminal stage of his illness”.
Translated, that means The procedure is so experimental, the boy's situation so poor, that even the regimen's inventor admits it will not cure the boy.
When the parents’ barrister Sophia Roper asked if Charlie could be ‘left worse off than he is at the moment’ the [American] doctor said he could ‘continue to deteriorate and he will lose all brain function’.
The doctor accepted that he was ‘not suggesting that it can provide a cure for Charlie’ and agreed that Great Ormond Street Hospital’s application to turn off his life support was a ‘reasonable position’.
Remember, this procedure has not even gotten medical board approval to test out on mice, much less small boys. Very few children have ever seen improvement with this treatment, and they all had a much less severe form of the disease. All were also in much better health when the treatment began. I understand that Charlie Gard's parents want their baby to live. But, they actually have a much better chance of a cure if they were to take the child to Lourdes. After all, there have been many, many more miraculous cures at Lourdes than there have been with this "treatment" at this stage of the disease.

The boy is vegetative. That means he cannot communicate. It does not mean he cannot feel. We know many instances of people diagnosed as vegetative who could most certainly think and feel, but they were locked inside their bodies, unable to communicate their pain, fear, hopes, dreams. We cannot be certain what level of suffering Charlie Gard is experiencing. All we know for certain is that Lourdes water is as likely, more likely, to heal the child.

We know one other thing: the Catholic Church sees nothing wrong with a natural death. No one is under a requirement to seek heroic procedures, which is what this most certainly is. St. Francis referred to our mortality as "Sister Death". Death is a natural evil, seeking to physically heal people is the pursuit of a natural good. Stopping death is not a moral crusade.

Medically, the procedure is as close to hopeless as hopeless gets. Make no mistake here: the parents want to subject their child to medical torture. That is all this procedure is. Even the people who aren't sure if Charlie can feel pain recognize that the parents want the best for their child, while also recognizing that those same parents, blinded by grief, will be subjecting their child to torture in a wild attempt to keep their own adult dreams alive.
This is not meant as a condemnation of the family of these patients or to question their love or motives, but it is meant be an indictment of a system that now herds these families down dead-end roads and prods them into believing that this is the new norm and that somehow the old ways were the wrong ways and this is how we show our love.
Libertarians and conservatives are using Charlie as their puppet to parade their view that Big Government is the Great Satan. And I agree - Big Government is, indeed, the Great Satan. But don't take it out on a little kid. Big Government is, indeed, the Great Satan, but just because the parents oppose Big Government's decision, that doesn't mean the parents are making the correct moral choice.

Treating children is not only reasonable, it is required.
But this... is this reasonable?

Even the American doctor who invented the nucleoside treatment admits Charlie is terminal, if he isn't brain-dead right now, he will be soon, and that pulling the artificial life support so as to allow Charlie to die a natural death is "reasonable." Has anyone thought about the fact that the American doctor admits all of this, yet STILL wants to poke and prod Charlie's body for at least six months before he's willing to allow him to die? The doctor sounds more like a modern-day Mengele, deliberately manipulating the grief-stricken parents for his own ends.

And this is what puzzles me. No one seems to have entertained the possibility that the US doctor was a parasite looking for test subjects, and willing to exploit grieving parents facing a hopeless situation so that he could add a couple data points to his graphs.

But, because this is a slam on "socialized medicine", every right-wing nut in America is virtue-signalling and posturing around Charlie's body. It is unseemly, at the very least. At the worst, it is a pro-abortion attitude.

What is the constant argument of the pro-aborts? "My body, my choice." Put another way, "Parents should have complete autonomy." If we try to save Charlie by arguing that parental autonomy is absolute and sacred, then we have just admitted abortion is a legitimate exercise of parental rights. Even the Catholic Church recognizes that parental rights are not absolute. There are legitimate reasons for government to intervene, such as child abuse or neglect. We may be parents, but we are not gods, parents do not have absolute autonomy, nor should parents make idols of our babies. We are all born already dying. Charlie is simply taking a natural and shorter road than some of us.

Wow - looks like the Pope sees it the same way:
"  “The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the story of Charlie Gard and expresses his own closeness to his parents,” read a July 2 statement issued by Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.
“He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”  
...When his parents asked to take their son home to die, their request was denied. Gard's life support machines were to be turned off Friday, but the courts allowed the parents to have more time with their child before his death. "   "


Jim Mitchell said...

The writer assumes there are no effective means to limit discomfort during such a treatment. Overall, it looks like an effort to argue for the sake of arguing.

Lona Goldsworthy said...

Stephen Hawkings comes to mind...he seems in no hurry to discount medical hope for himself. Most folks 'peering in from the outside' would say his condition 'appears to themselves', hopeless. obviously he thinks the opposite. Finding ways to off humanity this 2017, seems to be making great strides toward justifying euthanasia and forced death. Parents grief can be used to a greater good with hope or equally coerced to choose an easy death to the perceived problem. America has been destroying itself by abortion, well over fifty million... with as many misguided intentions and reasons to justify the genocide. Euthanasia is also very real, happening everyday now, with just as many self serving reasons...mostly $$$.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Could you explain how this is "forced death", given that even the doctor who invented the nucleoside treatment has admitted that Charlie Gard is in terminal stage? EVERY doctor says Charlie will soon be dead - even the guy who wants to test out his meds knows it won't work.

People die.
Children die.
Our tech is not good enough to stop death.
It just isn't.

Elena LaVictoire said...

I think you kind of missed the point. Parents have the God-given authority over their children - not the government. In this case, the parents were stripped of their parental rights because the government and the socialist health care system disagreed with them. That's wrong. And frankly, God bless those parents for not giving up on their kid. Good parents try to give their kids the best opportunity to grow and thrive - that's what these parents were trying to do.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

So, if parents have God-given, absolute authority, they can rape, torture and kill their own children, and no one can stop them, right?

Oh, wait.... no.... I bet that isn't right.

In fact, I bet the government has the right, even the duty, to step in and stop parents who mis-treat or abuse their own kids.

And if you agree, even a little bit, that government has the right to stop parents abusing their kids, then we're arguing about where the line is where government is required to step in and stop the parents from abusing their kids.

In this case, even the American doctor who pioneered the nucleoside therapy has said it is "reasonable" to turn off life support and let the child die a natural death. He has admitted that he's just going to play around with this kid for six months before he lets the kid die. The kid is a thing, a toy, to him.

So, yeah, that's no good.

Confitebor said...

Thanks for sharing your unsolicited and unneeded opinion on this matter which is none of your business. No doubt Charlie Gard's parents will give it all due consideration.

Confitebor said...

"Overall, it looks like an effort to argue for the sake of arguing."

Yes, and probably an occasion for him to do some of that "virtue signaling" he has decried in those with whom he disagrees.