For Your Own Good

Written by LibertariDan

The tragic end to the life of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee touched the hearts of all who were following those events in the news. Regardless of our opinions of whether Archie could have recovered with continued treatment, perhaps one thing we can all recognise is the cold, and illogical, interference by the machinery of the state-sponsored national religion – the NHS.

After four months in a coma, medical practitioners at the Royal London Hospital took the decision to withdraw Archie’s life support. A decision understandably fought by Archie’s mother who cited a request from the United Nations to continue treatment. The Court of Appeal, however, declined to postpone treatment withdrawal until the UN could hear the case. With nowhere else to go, Archie’s mother’s final request was to have her son moved to a hospice where his treatment withdrawal and death could take place in peace. However, lawyers for Barts Health NHS Trust blocked even that last request, in a letter stating “The trust continues to put Archie’s welfare and best interests at the forefront of its decision making about his care. It believes that Archie’s condition is unstable and that transferring him even a short distance involves significant risk.” Ignoring the fact that their decision to withdraw life support would guarantee Archie’s premature death, ignoring the fact they had no intention of restoring life support, suddenly they want to exercise final control over exactly where and how the end of his life must take place because of “risk”. Risk to what? His life which they’ve decided not to save? Sadly, the court agreed and on 6 August 2022, Archie Battersbee died in hospital, his mother’s last wish denied. These sad events bring to mind two other cases of state healthcare overreach. I think of Charlie Gard and Ashya King.

The parents of Charlie Gard, along with whatever else they must have suffered in terms of fears and heartache for their son, also had to duel the overreaching hand of the state interfering in their care plans for their poorly child. I can only try to imagine what that must be like. In his case this was not about cuts or saving money, though one might suspect that played no small part in the decision to deny moving Archie Battersbee to a hospice. For Charlie, money was there! The parents had raised it, people had donated, there was no NHS funding needed, everything was ready to go to try another treatment, this time in the USA. The only thing that prevented Charlie getting treatment was the iron hand of the state.

Previously a judge had determined that Charlie must die, his last chance for life and health in the USA untested. Since then the parents had appealed, after all treatment was available, paid for, ready, it was worth one last chance. In appealing it became clear that the original judgement became irrelevant for, in the time taken to appeal, had the judge ruled in favour of Charlie he could have been receiving treatment by now and the whole decision would be in the hands of the success or failure of the treatment. But during the appeal precious time was lost and in the end it was too late. The parents were forced to admit that in the delay Charlie had weakened too much and now even their last chance treatment in the USA was not possible – Charlie’s final light of hope extinguished by a state that got in the way of his treatment.

Recall, if you will, the case of Ashya King, whose parents were accused of kidnapping their own child and a European arrest warrant issued to try to prevent them taking their child for a treatment in another country – a treatment which worked and saved the child’s life. To see how hard the state worked to prevent this life saving treatment taking place, and to make criminals of the parents who only sought what was best for their child was sickening.

The sickening self-righteous piety reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s observation of moral busybodies’ interference in our lives: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Don’t we all know someone like that?

But it is easy to get lost in opinions about what is the right decision for each of these children – clearly the parents believed one thing and the agents of the state thought another. The claim by the state is that they want to do what is best for the child, and it hardly needs saying that the parents also want what is best for their child. And so, what is best? Surely it is whatever the child would have chosen were they able to choose. The state thinks the child would choose death. The parent believes the child would choose life. Then the state, pretending to act with the authority of all of us overrules the parent. So the basis of the whole decision remains – who should determine what a sick person would choose were they able to choose?

If you, personally, would stand in that private place and supplant the parent’s sacred duty with your will and overrule them, then you might agree with the state but must accept joint culpability for the decision. You went in where angels fear to tread, you forced your will on the outcome, you arrogantly usurped the parental responsibility. That is what state involvement and support of it means.

Otherwise leave it to the parents – clearly loving, devoted, wanting the best for their child. This is a parental decision not a state decision. In Charlie Gard’s case there was a light of hope in the USA, and Charlie and his parents were forced to wait around, until it was too late, for the state to give permission. Permission!? In the case of Ashya King the parents risked everything to defy an authority who would have seen their child die in order to ensure treatment which saved their life. And then after denying further treatment for Archie Battersbee, thereby guaranteeing the end of his life, the state stood in the way of the final request to move this poorly child to a hospice. Is no ground sacred?

I supported going ahead with one more treatment for Charlie, I supported the parent’s decision for Ashya King, and I would have supported Archie’s mother’s decision to move her child when hospitals were determined to withdraw treatment. But even so I don’t think it anyone’s call but the parents – and for that reason it is not the state’s call either.

But while the state forces its call anyway, and while ‘moral busybodies’ pat themselves on the back for their support of tyranny, we are all at risk of having our choices disregarded by systems that do not love us.

Read more articles from this edition of Free Speech here.


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