Bioethics Blogs

Charlie Gard and the Ethics Commentator

Guest Post: Daniel Sokol

‘Best interest’ cases, such as the Charlie Gard case, are fundamentally about medical ethics, although they are determined by a single judge in a court of law.

At the hearing last week, there were at least 4 express references to medical ethics.

The first appeared in the hospital’s “position statement”, drafted by Leading Counsel, Katie Gollop QC:

As to the disagreements [between the parents and the hospital], one is a difference of opinion about the risks, benefits and ethics of providing our compound nucleoside treatment for Charlie after a time when his brain had become profoundly affected by his genetic disease.”

The second was a reference to the Hippocratic Oath: Counsel for the parents stated that the decision to offer the proposed experimental treatment would be consistent with the Hippocratic Oath.  I discuss this – and my current view on the case – in a blog for the British Medical Journal.

The third was the mention by the parents’ barrister of a bioethicist, whose article was included in the family’s file of evidence to the Court.

The fourth was the decision to appoint a clinical ethicist to chair a Multidisciplinary Team meeting on Monday 17th July 2017.

It is no surprise, therefore, that ethicists have commented on the case.  As the court is not expected to make a decision until 25th July, and as we enter a quiet season for the media, many more commentaries will follow.

I attended part of the hearing in the High Court last week.  The room was packed with journalists, and the parties were well aware of this.  At one point in the proceedings, one barrister interrupted another and suggested that his submissions were misleading and an attempt to manipulate the press.  The judge agreed.  The hospital’s ‘position statement’, which a press officer handed to journalists at the lunch break, was drafted with the press at the forefront of the writer’s mind.  It would be naïve to think that the hospital, so reliant on donations, is immune from concerns about its reputation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.