From my occasional series The World Is An Impenetrably Twisted Fuck! This week: When the sanctity of life and its dying becomes a blur …
I wonder if there can be anyone who might read this – even with only a lighter grasp of world events – who could not know the name Charlie Gard.
In case you haven’t, Charlie’s is a desperately sad story of a young life born to incurable mitochondrial disease, which effectively means he cannot breathe, swallow, hear or see and is being kept alive by machines. And, at some point, presumably due to communication breaking down between Charlie’s understandably heartbroken parents and the doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital [GOSH], a subsequent combination of news and social media firestorm and an unwillingness to give up on their child has catapulted Charlie Gard onto international headlines.
Charlie’s parents took GOSH to court to fight for his life. The court – which I will never personally feel will ever be the right place to settle such issues – found in favour of GOSH, effectively giving the go ahead to switch from active treatment to palliative care. So, the parents then turned to the Supreme Court, then to the International Court of Human Rights; both essentially backed the initial judgement.
But what I’m writing here isn’t really about Charlie Gard. It’s about what happened next. And, indeed, has yet to fully resolve. Just when you feel that Charlie’s parents might finally get the peace and privacy they surely need to say Goodbye to their son, The Pope gets involved. Donald Trump gets involved. What is that? Are they both hoping for a high profile miracle to support their own popularity? Have they both been entered into a crass Look Whose Heart Is The Biggest contest? Okay, maybe that’s a little churlish of me, but here’s the rub …
I’ve just been reading about Backpage, an American multimillion dollar online money-spinner which essentially lined the pockets of its owners by selling escort and dating ads [and a couple of fridges and second-hand bikes, presumably for appearances sake!]. Far more disturbing is that it became a cornerstone for sex trafficking; including wholly breathing, hearing, seeing, feeling … children. It’s a desperately sad indictment on modern America; on the modern world. [It’s also the subject of a new film by award-winning documentary film-maker Mary Mazzio: I am Jane Doe on Netflix.] In America today some campaigners believe up to 100,000 children are being exploited every year. Meanwhile, the child abuse revelations associated with the Catholic Church refuses to fade and appear to stumble on from one horrifying revelation after the next. Throughout the world unimaginable numbers of children are being exploited and abused. And yet, two people with the profile of the President of the United States and The Pope, choose to fixate on the tangible tragedy surrounding Charlie Gard.
For me – and while my heart goes out to Charlie Gard and his parents – this simply highlights the myopia of leadership in our world. When actions like these feel more about personal popularity and politics than about really getting a handle on the greater good.