A child is dead. Alfie Evans of Liverpool, England passed away last week at age 23 months of an undiagnosed condition that showed up in the first few months of his life and left him in a semi-vegetative state for the last year of his life. Alfie was at the center of a battle that […]
A child is dead.
Alfie Evans of Liverpool, England passed away last week at age 23 months of an undiagnosed condition that showed up in the first few months of his life and left him in a semi-vegetative state for the last year of his life.
Alfie was at the center of a battle that raged in the British legal system and the world media over the UK's National Health Service's decision to take him off life support as a hopeless case.
There is a grim logic to that. Resources are finite and under the British system, rationed. Care devoted to a child almost certain to die is care taken from another who might live.
But in this case there was a crowdfunding campaign to pay for diagnosis and treatment, and a plane sent by an Italian hospital willing to take him was waiting on British soil. The Pope personally appealed for continued treatment and the Royal Family came under criticism for their silence on the issue as they themselves welcomed a new child.
And what is almost too awful to think about, 'taken off life support' doesn't just mean turning off the respirator, but food and water as well.
Let us leave aside for now the issue of whether a child with severe brain impairment can be truly 'alive.' Let's discuss later whether treating such doomed children can contribute to our understanding of these very rare conditions.
Let's talk about whose kids they are.
Alfie's case was at the extreme end of the issue, life and death. It tugs on the heart strings because we saw the pictures of that angelic child. We felt the rage and frustration of his parents who were not only denied care, but actively forbidden to seek care on their own.
But extreme cases highlight the underlying issues.
In 2015, California passed the Healthy Youth Act (Assembly Bill 329, Chapter 398 Pupil instruction: sexual health education.)
Some people are up in arms about provisions such as: 'Instruction and materials shall affirmatively recognize that people have different sexual orientations and, when discussing or providing examples of relationships and couples, shall be inclusive of same-sex relationships,' and 'Instruction and materials shall teach pupils about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and explore the harm of negative gender stereotypes.'
Others think this an entirely appropriate part of the education of young people for citizenship in an inclusive and tolerant society.
But I wonder what they would think about my children's rural high school offering trap shooting as an activity? And what would they think of me that I am strongly encouraging both of them to take it?
In New York state there is a bill introduced in the legislature to forbid schools from offering firearms and archery courses. Because they say these give instruction to future school shooters.
So on one side you have those who think parents should have the last word on how they raise their kids, and on the other you have the 'It Takes a Village' crowd who think the interest of the state should be paramount.
I know there are parents who should not have their kids. I once covered the sentencing of a couple who starved the father's little boy to death, and it was pretty obvious from testimony that child protection services had dropped the ball.
Obviously there has to be some kind of balance between the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit and the interest of society in assuring the safety of the child. But before we tilt the balance too far on the side of the state we might consider that it wasn't Alfie Evan's parents that starved him to death.
A collection of Steve's columns “The View from Flyover Country: A Rural Columnist Looks at Life in the 21st Century” is available on Kindle.