Radio Show

The Moral Implications of the Charlie Gard Case


Father Dave sits down with author, ethicist, and friend of the Busted Halo Show Dr. Charlie Camosy to discuss the heartbreaking case of the infant Charlie Gard whose parents have been fighting in both U.K. and European Union courts to overrule the decision of his doctors to remove him from life support. Dr. Camosy provides an overview of Catholic bioethics in regards to end-of-life care and modern medical technology (beginning at 01:34) and talks about the specifics of the Charlie Gard case (beginning at 11:15).

“Catholic teaching [is] that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, have equal worth, and regardless of their disability, regardless of how much they’re in pain, regardless of how much society despises them [or] how badly society wants to throw them away and discard them, we need to treat them all equally,” Dr. Camosy says. “We can never, for instance, aim at [a person’s] death. We can never say, ‘It is time for you to die right now,’ either by an action or omission. We obviously can’t use a direct action to kill an innocent person, but the Church’s teaching is that we can’t also refuse to do something if we hope that our refusal will lead to their death.”

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Father Dave explains that both of those two things — action and omission — are seen by the Church to constitute euthanasia. Dr. Camosy explains a very grim hypothetical situation that he uses in the classroom to help his students understand this Catholic perspective: “Say there’s a horrible husband who wants to kill his wife for the life insurance money. She’s taking a bath, and he’s about to drop the toaster in the water. [Before he can do that] he sees she’s drowning. He could easily save her, but he chooses not to save her because he wants her to die just so he can get the life insurance money. From a Catholic theology perspective, there is no distinction between actually dropping the toaster in the water and letting her die. In both cases, the idea is you want her dead so you can get this other thing. This is similar in bioethics as well.” This perspective is discussed in very precise bioethical terms in Dr. Camosy’s book, “Too Expensive to Treat? Finitude, Tragedy, and the Neonatal ICU,” which he and Father Dave discuss before delving into the sad particulars of Charlie Gard’s case.

One of Dr. Camosy’s points is that “we have an ableist culture — a culture that really only values you based on what you can do, what you can produce. ‘A life worth living’ — I hear this phrase again and again — is often [only seen as] a productive member of society. Where does that view come from that you only have value if you can produce things, if you’re productive, or if you can contribute in the way our secular culture would like you to contribute? The beauty of Jesus’ message, the beauty of the Gospel, is the beauty of Matthew 25. It’s the most vulnerable, it’s the marginalized, it’s the least among us that Christ comes to us as. We need to create a culture where those who are the least among us need to be welcomed, not discarded, not thrown away, not feeling like their life doesn’t matter. It’s pernicious, it’s horrible, it’s completely awful that instead of trying to create that culture we say, ‘You know what, let’s give these people an easier way to kill themselves.’” (Original Air 07-14-17)

Photo credit: Supporters of the parents of Charlie Gard demonstrate outside England’s high court in London. (CNS photo/Andy Rain, EPA)

NOTE: Father Dave and Dr. Camosy’s complete overview on Catholic bioethics begins at 01:34. For their in-depth discussion of the current Charlie Gard case, start listening at 11:15.