Once we hand the power over life and death to bureaucrats, their standards will evolve, especially when that power is paired with inherently limited budgets. On National Review Online, Wesley Smith observes the socialized health system of the United Kingdom progressing its logic after the Charlie Gard case, in which the government forbade parents from giving an American specialist a shot at saving their terminally ill infant’s life (emphasis in original):
Well, it is happening again–except in this case the baby isn’t terminally ill but has been unconscious for a year. Moreover, as I wrote here previously, there isn’t even a diagnosis as to the cause.
An Italian children’ hospital has offered to take the child as a patient for further inquiries and treatment. But the UK hospital administration and doctors are not only saying NO, but as in the Charlie Gard case, also seeking a court order allowing them to withdraw life-sustaining treatment.
As horrific as such stories may be, one could sort of understand the logic of declining treatment, beginning with different principles and assumptions. The component that’s inexplicable is the refusal to allow transfers.
Smith thinks these are examples of the exercise of raw power, and perhaps there’s some of that. I wonder, though, if the more human answer isn’t something more like insecurity. After all, if a child dies, then the experts can insist that they were right and that nothing could have been done, except to cost the government money and perhaps the child discomfort. If, however, any of these parents succeed in transferring their children out from under the government’s thumb and the child thrives, the doctors will have the discomfort of having been proven wrong on a matter of life and death and trust in the entire system could collapse.