An excerpt from my latest column for the New York Times on the contrasting cases of Charlie Gard and Noel Conway:
Usually, a decision about a child’s best interests involves two alternative futures. Is he better off with his mother or father after a divorce? Is it in his interests to stay with parents who may be having difficulties, or to be taken into care?
In Charlie Gard’s case, though, the choice is between a possible future and a definite non-future. There is no future after death, and if life support is ended, Charlie will have no interest to debate.
It is more than six months since the courts first heard the case. A reasonable decision, one that acknowledges the complexities, might have been for the court to have accepted at the start that Charlie could receive treatment for a set period (say, three or six months). This would have permitted the treatment to be assessed, while all parties could have agreed that if the treatment did not succeed, the life support would be turned off. We would have known by now whether Charlie did possess an alternative future or whether his interest does lie in death.
In Charlie’s case, the judges decided that it is in his interest to die even with a possibility of treatment. Noel Conway, in contrast, wants to be allowed to die in dignity, but the law will not permit it. His motor neuron disease is incurable, and he is not expected to live beyond 12 months. His condition is painful, and will become more so. He wants doctors to be able to give him a lethal injection when he decides that it is time to end his life. Under British law, it would be a criminal offense for a doctor to do so.
Read the full article in the New York Times.
The painting is ‘The Judgment of Solomon by José de Ribera.