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Charlie Gard raises questions of parents' rights, government limits


Connie Yates and Chris Gard hold hands as they arrive at the High Court in London July 24. CNS photo/Peter Nicholls, Reuters

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London, England (CNA/EWTN News) -- For the past few months the world has watched closely as the parents of a gravely ill British infant fought an intense legal battle over whether or not his life was worth further treatment, which has raised crucial questions.

Among the most potent of these questions regards the ethics of a court stepping in and denying parents the right to seek a treatment which may benefit their child.

British and European courts had sided with officials from Great Ormond Street Hospital, who sought to bar Charlie Gard's parents from seeking treatment for their child overseas.

In comments to CNA July 25, Benjamin Harnwell, founder of the Rome-based Dignitatis Humanae Institute, said he thought that "the hospital -- and the courts -- crossed a totalitarian line in refusing to hand the baby over to his parents at their request, so that they could seek further medical attention in the U.S., for which they had secured the funding."

"I don't think it's ever appropriate" for a hospital or court to step in and "advocate" for a patient, especially in the case of a minor whose parents are involved, Harnwell added.

While the Church "certainly doesn't teach that people should be kept alive 'at all costs,'" he said "the question isn't so much about knowing 'when to let go' but about the moral responsibility of parents wanting to choose when to make that decision for themselves."

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