Is your child’s life worth saving? Every parent will answer yes, but the case of Alfie Evans is a chilling reminder that under single-payer healthcare, the government can decide the contrary, leaving parents no recourse to provide care for their child.
Alfie was about six months old when he first started experiencing seizures. Doctors were unable to diagnose or understand his condition, but described it as a degenerative neurological condition.
A year after Alfie was admitted for care, the Alder Hey Hospital moved to remove his life support. Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, fought the decision all the way to the U.K.’s Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights, but the courts decided that continued treatment was “not in Alfie’s best interests.”
On April 20th, 2018, the British government issued its final decision that Alfie Evans’ life wasn’t worth trying to save. The decision came even after Pope Francis had intervened on the parents’ behalf, offering Italian citizenship and air transport to a Vatican hospital where care could be provided. This setting would not preclude further insights into his diagnosis and exploration of therapeutic options.
Three days later, the hospital withdrew Alfie’s life support. Defying doctors’ expectations, Alfie continued breathing on his own for five days until finally succumbing.
It’s hard to imagine a worse nightmare for parents than watching doctors remove life-saving medical care from your child because a bureaucrat has decided his life is expendable. This represents the government overstepping its bounds, especially considering the parents were not allowed to provide alternative care or heed the guidance of a second opinion.
Alfie’s life is worth preserving because it enjoys the inherent value that we all enjoy: we are made in God’s image and therefore worthy of protection. In fact, in the case of the disabled it is especially incumbent upon us as a society to protect the vulnerable, providing a voice to the voiceless who cannot speak for themselves. Scientific hubris exhibited by the medical caretakers should not be the default position in determining the value of a life because it has been proven wrong over and over again. For example, there are many instances where patients who had previously been declared “brain dead” have recovered. The parents are in a much better position to consider all the facts, including the medical prognosis, and decide what is in the best interests of their child.
U.S. liberals often downplay concerns about giving the government the right to decide whether to provide life-saving care. They criticize Christians for “politicizing” the issue. However, it is not the Christians who have made the issue political. It is the court and hospital who have turned a personal decision that ought be to executed in an intimate, private setting by close family members into a political decision made by strangers and showcased on the national stage.
Post-Obamacare, the situation is also a reminder of how important it is to retain rights of designated healthcare proxies or guardians to execute end-of-life decisions rather than a national government body whose primary concern is the financial bottom line. Obamacare’s proposed “Independent Payment Advisory Board” was a foreboding emblem of how close the U.S. is to falling into the trap of socialized medicine. The Board was nearly granted unchecked authority to make cost-cutting decisions. Using this justification, access to needed healthcare could have been restricted if deemed unaffordable. Fortunately, the program was repealed before it went into effect.
Even Republicans have contributed to major backsliding towards single-payer. Due to the recent bipartisan budget deal, grievous harm may come to the Medicare Part D program if not rescinded. The proposed changes dictate a drastic reduction in the share paid by insurance companies and a hike in the mandated discount in drug prices. This shifts the risk away from insurance companies and onto the pharmaceutical companies, disincentivizing insurance companies from offering competitive plan options to seniors. When free market forces are at play, the consumer always wins. Subsequently, when market competition is taken away and winners and losers are chosen, the consumer will suffer.
The Alfie Evans case is a further reminder that single-payer healthcare is not in the interest of U.S. citizens. We must stay vigilant in resisting the ever encroaching hand of the government in elemental issues such as healthcare. As a parent of a preemie who is currently receiving oxygen assistance in the neonatal intensive care unit, the decision by the U.K. government is unsettlingly personal. Unless we speak out now, it may be our children or grandparents who are deemed to be unimportant and not worth saving.
Keeley Bowler is an independent consultant who provides market research and strategy advice to companies introducing disruptive technologies, especially in the life sciences. She has a Certificate in Bioethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center and volunteers with 40 Days for Life, Boston Campaign. Follow her tweets at @Market_Spy.