In a recent Life Chat video, Care Net President and CEO Roland Warren says that it doesn’t “take a village to raise a child,” but rather “it takes good families to make a village, and good families to raise a child.” In this post, I explore these concepts further in the context of euthanasia and the tragic story of Charlie Gard.
Good families try to protect their kids from a chaotic world, or as in Roland’s village analogy, a “bad village.” They have important conversations rather than leaving it to schools to tell their children the facts of life. They admonish their children to make the right friends. They prevent their children from consuming entertainment that could harmfully influence them.
But sometimes, the government gets involved and prevents parents from protecting their children as much as they would like. This is what happened to Charlie Gard, a baby boy in Britain with a rare disorder that causes brain damage and progressive muscle weakness. In Charlie’s case, the government got too involved. For months, Charlie’s parents fought the British and European court systems for the right to bring their son to America to receive experimental treatment that may have saved his life; but Charlie’s hospital and the British government wanted Charlie euthanized. His parents fought as hard as they could to protect their beloved child from a powerful “village” with wrong values, but they lost. While Charlie’s parents fought the government, his condition became untreatable.
In an earlier ruling, Justice Francis, the British high court judge who heard Charlie’s case, claimed he was trying to act in “Charlie’s best interest.” As for his legal reasons for overriding parental rights, he said, “Some people may ask why the court has any function in this process; why can the parents not make this decision on their own? The answer is that, although the parents have parental responsibility, overriding control is vested in the court exercising its independent and objective judgment in the child's best interests.”
To be sure you caught that, this judge said that parents have responsibility, but control lies with the court. If you are not shivering, please read the judge’s statement again. Of course, the judge forgets that parents who know and love their children know more than uninvolved strangers about what is good for their children. Parents do make mistakes (and they should have the right to make them!), but physicians and the government make mistakes too, often on a much grander scale. Parents who know their children intimately, and work with specialists when necessary, usually make better decisions for their children than a body of powerful strangers who see someone like Charlie as a case number.
Unfortunately, Charlie Gard’s village believes that some people don’t have value, that parents don’t know what is best for their children, and that the state should decide what is best for families. As a result, they take away basic parental rights. Charlie’s village believes it takes a village and only a village, not families, to raise a child. Such a system makes the village all-powerful and undermines families.
When the village starts getting involved in family matters, especially those concerning children, the village often starts with the child’s “best interests in mind.” This well-intentioned interaction with families all too often becomes overt control, as the village enjoys the newly gained power.
It takes a village to control a family.
The underlying reason why the village wants to control the family and its children is because children are important. They are our future, our hope, and the reason we as a society all work so hard. If you control the children and how they are raised, you control the village’s future.
But the village tends to get upset when people oppose it. Even if the British and European governments had the best intentions in letting Charlie Gard die, Charlie’s parents posed a threat to the government’s power. In a statement after making the final decision to end the legal battle, Charlie’s father said, “We'll have to live with the what-ifs, which will haunt us for the rest of our lives.” The government should have supported the family, but instead it broke their spirits.
To make matters worse, Charlie’s parents had little time to say goodbye to their son after the judge ordered Charlie be sent to hospice to have life support withdrawn. The village hurried to carry out what they ordered and to maintain power, at the expense of the people who they hurt the most with their actions.
Overriding parental rights undermines the family. As Roland says, the family is the child’s only protection from the village. If the family no longer has the right to protect their children, then their children will be open to every influence of the village, whether good or bad.
Most parents love their children, and most families love their family members. It is natural, no matter what their loved ones are struggling with. So, in order to kill someone, it takes power to override the protection of the family. It takes a reigning ideology that must render parents powerless.
It takes a village to kill a child.
We cannot sit idly by and let this happen in England, America, or any other country. Ultimately, it will take life disciples rallying together and transforming the culture to protect more people like Charlie from the villages we are born into.