I’ve been warning since the deaths of Alfie Evans and Charlie Gard in Britain a few years ago that this legislated murder against the wishes of the parents would be coming to the United States. It has arrived. In mid-October 2019, the University of Michigan, which runs a children’s hospital, pulled the plug on the ventilator to fourteen-year-old Bobby Reyes. Reyes had suffered an asthma attack which had then led to cardiac arrest. The hospital had declared him brain dead and sought to pull the plug. His parents had sued to prevent it and a judge turned them down. The ruling came down somewhere between 10 am and 3 pm and young Reyes was dead by three.
This carries eerie echos to the UK cases of Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and now Tafida Raqueeb. In each case, the child was declared brain dead, or incompatible with life. In each case, the parents vehemently disagreed. When the hospitals attempted to force the issue, the parents sued. In each case, parental rights were overruled by the courts. The one stand out difference, in this case, is that there was no protracted legal battle. The moment the court ruled the hospital could pull the plug, they did. Whether this haste is an ominous sign of things to come or simply one hospital getting rid of an inconvenient patient remains to be seen.
In this instance, as with all the others, the parents were insistent that their child was getting better. As with all the others, outside medical doctors concurred with the parents, believing that the child was recovering and, while they might not ever completely recover, could potentially be able to leave the hospital and have a somewhat normal life. None of that mattered to either the hospital or the court.
Unfortunately, however, I do expect this to be a long-running and continual issue. Euthanasia is legal in eight states of the US along with the District of Columbia. As of this writing, Michigan is not one of those states. However, unfortunately, while this was euthanasia in the moral sense, it was not in the legal sense as the doctors involved decided that this young man needed to die.
The rising incidence of this issue, with hospitals overruling parents and being supported by the courts, is worrying. It leads me to ask a question which will not be terribly popular: what are these hospitals trying to hide? I’m normally one to trust the medical profession and follow their instructions but I do not understand what these hospitals have to lose by permitting these kids to live. The parents are paying for the child to stay there, either directly or through insurance. Why do the hospitals care so much about ending their lives? If it was costing the hospitals money, I could potentially see the motivation but here there seems to be none. I can’t see them being sadistic enough to glory in killing kids so there has to be another reason in play. What it is, who knows.
While there are medical instances where it is impossible to keep someone alive or to help them live on without pain where it may be necessary to remove life support. Brain death is not one of those things. Brain death isn’t settled science in any way, with doctors arguing over what brain death even means. Claiming before a judge that there is no hope of a “brain dead” child recovering ignores both the disagreements among the practitioners and the fact that purportedly brain dead people have recovered in the past.
From a Biblical perspective, there are multiple issues generated by this ruling. First, because man is made in God’s image, His image ought not be marred by man. In fact, Biblically the penalty for murder was death. However, the other issue raised by the actions of the hospital and the courts is that of parental authority. Biblically parents are given massive amounts of authority of their non-adult children. From education to discipline, to training, all the decision making for a child was made by the parents, not the state. We seem to be losing that in our culture. Schools hide abortions from parents, hide gender transitions and impose gender-neutral bathrooms on horrified teenage girls. When parents complain, the schools mostly laugh it off. This most recent case merely amplifies the case for Christians to be aware of what is happening and react Biblically.