July 23, 2017

Quick Takes (v19): Charlie Gard

Quick Takes
I'm not a huge fan of politicians interjecting themselves into healthcare decisions for individual patients or into particular kinds of healthcare decisions, such as contraception or end-of-life care. I've written about this stuff before (here, and here, for example).

Many times, the individual situations are dire, agonizing, and unimaginable for anyone who has not lived it themselves, and that's why (and when) politicians tend to get involved. Other times, it's because of a belief that we can legislate a preferred sense of values (chosen by the involved politicians) via giving or taking away payment for and access to healthcare services.

The cases are far more complicated when, for one reason or another, on behalf of one side or another, courts are involved.  This happens in America, and it happens in other countries - so that automatically qualifies our elected officials to meddle, right?

That's what's happening in the case of Charlie Gard, an 11-month-old British child with a terminal disease and other serious complications necessitating him being on life support. British courts have determined that further treatment for him would be futile but his parents are fighting. American and Italian doctors have gone to England to consult on the case, and the parents want to bring him here for an experimental treatment that will not cure him, but may prolong and possibly improve his life.

It's an ugly mess, as these cases typically are (remember Terri Schiavo?) but it's an ugly mess across the ocean and wildly outside the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives, one would think.

But one would be wrong.

It seems the House of Representatives has passed an amendment granting legal permanent resident status, which would allow them to come to the US for the experimental treatment (the House and Senate need to act before anything becomes official). In the middle of an intense national disagreement on what health care and health insurance will look like for Americans

  • millions of whom stand to lose coverage quickly (under the most recent Senate plan) or more slowly (under the House plan), and
  • millions of whom struggle to pay for insurance premiums, or face choices between paying for necessities like housing and food or paying for medical treatment, and
  • millions of whom may end up in ridiculously high premium risk pools because of preexisting conditions, and
  • millions of whom will go back to annual or lifetime limits on treatment of illnesses like Charlie Gard's, and
  • millions of whom, even with insurance, have no reasonable access to experimental treatments themselves.

What are we doing? Why is our government meddling in a court case in another country? 

Why are we prioritizing one foreign child over millions of Americans?