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Deciding a baby should die should be family's decision

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    Connie Yates and Chris Gard are battling to keep their 11-month-old son, Charlie, alive so they can try to have an experimental treatment done.

  • Britain-Sick-Baby-3

    Connie Yates and Chris Gard are battling to keep their 11-month-old son, Charlie, alive so they can try to have an experimental treatment done.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

A British judge is reconsidering his decision that Charlie Gard should die. Charlie is 11 months old; he’s seriously, neurologically ill; and his parents want to try an experimental treatment. But doctors at a British National Health Service hospital said he’d be better off dying — and Justice Nicholas Francis has ruled that Charlie should, as many reports have put it, “be allowed to die with dignity.”

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Connie Yates and Chris Gard are battling to keep their 11-month-old son, Charlie, alive so they can try to have an experimental treatment done.

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But there is no dignity in having the state decide your life isn’t worth saving.

The courts found that Charlie was probably suffering, and that the treatment his family wanted to try wouldn’t help. “He has no quality of life and no real prospect of any quality of life,” the hospital said.

But Charlie’s father, Chris Gard, said the boy would “fight to the very end.”

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Charlie’s parents found a doctor at New York’s Columbia University, Michio Hirano, who had a treatment he thought might help. In a study with nine patients suffering from a disease similar to the baby’s extremely rare and debilitating one, Dr. Hirano would eventually say, five had shown improvement. But they had muscle problems. Charlie’s brain has been affected too.

Charlie’s mother, Connie Yates, and Mr. Gard raised money — more than $1.7 million — on GoFundMe. And they fought in the courts, all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

They lost. Officials said Charlie’s parents wouldn’t even be allowed to take him home to die, let alone to the United States for a chance at life.

Now Dr. Hirano is being allowed to examine Charlie and submit evidence to Justice Francis, who might change his decision.

What to do in such a case is a difficult choice. There are no easy, or clearly right, answers.

But there is a clear and easy answer as to who should make the choice. When to give up on life is an intimate, personal matter. It’s for an individual or family to decide — and in the case of a baby, who cannot possibly choose, his parents must. Doctors and judges have no business overriding what Charlie’s family wants.

The family may be grasping at wisps of hope. But that is no excuse for their government to dispel those wisps and take away whatever chance of a meaningful life Charlie has.

This isn’t a question of limited resources. Donors have already come through. But the hospital says it’s in Charlie’s best interests to die anyway. And the courts, so far, have agreed.

It’s in no one’s best interests for them to make that call.

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