Two days ago, a little boy in the UK died. Death, in and of itself, isn’t a headline story. Alfie’s headline status came from the fact that the UK’s healthcare system denied his parents the right to make decisions for him, choosing instead to terminate life support and ultimately, to terminate Alfie’s life. Here’s one news write-up on the story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/04/28/alfie-evans-the-sick-british-toddler-at-the-center-of-a-fierce-legal-battle-has-died/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.6f41895a49e9
I cannot imagine government healthcare overriding my decisions for my child, to the point of placing armed guards around him and telling me I can’t even take him home to die. It is, to me, an impossible thing to debate on Twitter, because there just aren’t enough characters to fully express my viewpoint. I have friends who think that the parents should have made the decision on their own to let him die, since he was deemed incurable. Since they didn’t make that choice, they think a higher power needed to do it. I do get the thought process of not letting him suffer, but I don’t agree with them. If parents have not been abusive, they are the final arbiter of their children’s medical decisions. In this case, the parents had the funds and the ability to take Alfie out of the UK to see specialists. Some say that it was simply false hope; that it was cruel to want to prolong Alfie’s life when the experts said it was hopeless. My contention is that a mindset like that would have kept many huge medical breakthroughs from ever occurring. From heart transplants to cancer treatments to the ability to save preterm babies far earlier in the pregnancy than thought possible even a couple of decades ago, being given the chance to at least try was the first step in allowing these procedures to become routine.
Having volunteered for a childhood cancer support group in the past, I have friends who had to make the decision of which protocol to choose to try and cure their child. I’ve had friends whose children have relapsed with a very small chance at survival. Every parent is different in the choices that they make, and I judge none of them. The point is that they were given the choice; Alfie’s parents were not. I am friends with one family whose daughter was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma at age 6, given a 30% chance of survival. She relapsed at age 10, and that survival chance dropped to 5%. Her parents did not want to put her through the painful and unsuccessful trials that were going on at that time, but they really weren’t ready to just give up. They found a trial using Accutane and decided to give it a try. Against almost all odds, the cancer disappeared. That was in 2006; twelve years later, Sarah is still cancer-free and finishing up her college degree. What if government healthcare had looked at the odds and said, “We’re sorry, but we will not allow any further treatment beyond palliative care.”? When the government controls something, it’s considered to be a finite resource. When the free market controls it, there are far fewer limits on what is available. I wanted to remember this story; hopefully, I’ll look back at this post in a few years and give a sigh of relief because the US chose to remain free.