Skip to content

Video Series: Charlie Gard should be allowed to die, says Dominic Wilkinson

Dominic Wilkinson, Consultant Neonatologist and Professor in Medical Ethics, argues that Charlie Gard should be allowed to die and that disagreement about this case is not necessarily ‘reasonable’ disagreement. He also explains what could possibly change his mind about the case.


Share on

8 Comment on this post

  1. In some ways this is disturbing: Dominic Wilkinson is blind to the political arguments of Charlie Gard’s supporters, or indeed any other non-doctor. His perspective is limited to that of “intensive care physicians”, and the rest of the world apparently has no impact on his thinking.

    There is nothing “clear cut” in this case: everything is disputed. So it is not relevant, for instance, whether Charlie has brain damage, since that is disputed, and cannot be established to everyone’s satisfaction. All ‘expert assessment’ is irrelevant, since it is disputed by non-experts. The issue is instead who should decide, the experts or the non-experts. The parallel with the Brexit referendum is obvious:

    …people in this country have had enough of experts.
    Michael Gove, 2016

    Similarly, no decision on Charlie Gard can be based on the benefits or disbenefits of continued life support. It is not a ‘burden’ in the parents view, so there is no consensus.

    There is no standard for whether any specific disagreement is ‘reasonable’. There is no moral or legal requirement to give reasons for value preferences, nor is it necessary that others understand why they are chosen.It not relevant that the parents are fallible: so are the courts, the doctors, and the government.

    Dominic Wilkinson also claims that “we” don’t think it right that Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions for their children. Perhaps he finds it wrong, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses obviously don’t. There is no consensus. Nor is there a consensus on whether Charlie Gard suffers pain or distress.

    Consequently there is no medical-ethical reason for ‘resisting parents preferences’ in the Charlie Gard case, as Dominic Wilkinson implies. There are no established facts on which to base an ethical decision: it is a political choice. There are certainly ethical issues in the case, but they relate to the politics and political structures, not to medical matters.

    1. it is ethicly wrong to keep this child alive. the professor made complete sense and actully i thought he and the other professionals have all debated this case sensitivly and with compassion

      you wouldnt keep a dog alive in charlues condition so how is it right to allow this little boy to suffer?

      1. you wouldnt keep a dog alive in charlues condition so how is it right to allow this little boy to suffer?</blockquote

        You can always tell in these discussions who hasn't had children (and, in sadly too many of them, who should never have them).

        1. Actually I have had children and I am also a nurse with over 15 years experience. I see the conflicts families have every day and I also see the needless suffering patients go through when really they should be allowed to die with dignity and as little suffering as possible. Just because Medicine makes it possible to keep the body alive in the most difficult of circumstances, it doesn’t mean we always should.

  2. Aside from the discomfort of ventilation and suction – which many children with a certain quality of life experience routinely throughout the world – I have yet to see any other actual evidence of him suffering significant pain.

    Even if the baby is in pain, the key question is: can it be managed for a short trial of the experimental treatment? If so, the pain argument seems to fall away as a compelling basis to end life.

    On the other hand, there is now evidence from a leading expert in these mitochondrial disorders which says that there is a real chance – even if small – that the baby can have a meaningful improvement.

    I can’t help but feel that the underlying reasoning for the conclusions expressed by this academic and neonatologist is that the baby will not likely have a quality of life which justifies continued existence, even if he were to get treatment. However, it is presently unknown to what extent the proposed treatment may improve his quality of life. In those circumstances, where the chances of a meaningful improvement are real even if small, the baby ought to be given the benefit of trying.

  3. The Bible says “But to write them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood.” Christianity first went to circumcised Jews. But Christianity was for all humans. So the question came up: What do we do about Gentiles becoming Christians? So the above is given to accept Gentiles into Christianity. Please note that it uses the word “abstain” from blood. It includes “immorality.” So if we try some workarounds for blood we have do the same with sexual immorality. It is clear that both are banned.

    I had an anal bleeding and lost about a liter of blood. and my blood went down to 8.5 a level they used to give a transfusion to. However I trusted them that the doctors were smart enough to work around this. With vitamins and good managing, my blood went to 13.0, I felt so much better having my body make my own blood rather than have someone else’s blood flowing through my veins.

    It is always better to trust in Jehovah than do things on our own.

  4. Elizabeth Spencee

    In Ashya King’s case too doctors gave up amd the boy was unable to move or speak. But the parents abducted and took him to Czech republic for proton therapy. Now the child is healthy and attending school. It is that same hope and belief Charlie Gard’s parents have.

    “Love sees a way when Logic only sees pitfalls and road blocks ”

    This case is almost like watching a Sci-fi movie like the “Equals” or “Island”. The scary part is that it is today’s reality and not a distant future any more! Every parent with a child will relate to his parents and it shows the hope every parent holds for their child and to deny that hope is cruel and also barbaric. I hope Justice Francis sees the human element here and gives the child that 10% chance to live. Life , any life is precious and should be respected! My great grand father was a Chief Justice too and I am proud of his achievements, especially the values he passed on to me through family. Family values are important too and we should never judge anything en-masse, every case is different and if a judge can’t rule with both his heart and head , then God save us all!

  5. Elizabeth Spencer

    Medical field is supplemented with help from experts from different areas of chemistry, research, even engineering ( the medical equipment that keeps Charlie and others like him alive won’t be here without these medical engineers). So belittling a chemist and assuming his assessment of the role chemistry plays in Brain structure is very petty.

    No one is an expert on anything because we cannot make judgements based on our area of expertise alone. We as humans depend on each other as a society and the collective knowledge of many experts constitutes maybe a percent of the knowledge we possess now. We are not as far advanced in medicine as we think are, even the 19th century doctors felt they were experts then , but compared to now, they would be considered pioneering doctors and not experts. Same way we haven’t managed to unlock the mysteries of the brain still, so how can we claim to be experts about a subject matter that is still a mystery to all the scientists and doctors of the world!

    Some of us have the God complex, but when we remove our pride and lock it in a cup board far away, we unlock our real potential and learn something new. But if we are closed to learning and hold fast to our viewpoint , then we are not progressing.

    Charlie Gard and Ashya King are our learning curves in ethics , our current society politics, and also medicine. If this nucleoside therapy indeed helps Charlie Gard, it would help millions of other patients in the UK who suffer from mitochondrial diseases. How can we close our minds to progress and say we don’t want to know! Even Charles Darwin would be ashamed that science doesn’t want to discover anything more. The nucleoside treatment is not unethical , nor is it invasive according to Dr. Michio Hirano, so why not try!

    ” Try” , ” Lose sight off the shore to discover” , ” Try”

    I pray that every one who feels that giving up is an option, read Dylan Thomas’s poem-


Comments are closed.