Unfortunately, everybody has heard about Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans. They were both born with eerily similar and rare genetic disorders. They both died before they reached age two. Sadly, those kinds of things happen too often. But neither of them are the reason you’ve heard of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans. You’ve heard of them because they became icons for the inherent dangers of a state-controlled health care system. C. S. Lewis warned us about this more than 70 years ago.
Charlie Gard was born in England on August 4, 2016, with an exceptionally rare genetic disorder. His prognosis was not good, but his parents found a hospital in the U.S. that agreed to offer an experimental treatment for the disease. They even raised the 1.3 million Pounds (about $1.74 million) required for the treatment. But the hospital where Charlie was born, and the grossly misnamed European High Court of “Human Rights” (ECHR), would not allow him to go receive the treatment. They didn’t want his case to set a precedent. Charlie Gard died on July 26, 2017.
In a more recent but similar story, Alfie Evans was born in England on May 9, 2016. Shortly thereafter, Alfie was diagnosed with another rare degenerative genetic disease. Once again, the prognosis was dire, but Alfie’s parents arranged for their son to be treated at a hospital in Italy. Again, the British hospital refused to allow him to go. The case was appealed to the same ECHR (Family Division) and got the same response. Alfie died on April 28, 2018.
Remember, the families of both of these children were not allowed to seek treatments outside the state-controlled health care system, Britain’s National Health Service. The power of a state bureaucracy trumped the wishes of the family, even when the family had raised the money for treatments on their own.
The Prescience of C. S. Lewis
Many people are unaware that C. S. Lewis wrote a three-book science fiction series called The Space Trilogy. The third installment of that series was titled, That Hideous Strength. In that book, the main character (Mark Studdock) was seduced to corruption by the promise of joining the inner ring of a powerful English society. It was an organization of men who used questionable tactics to establish an “efficient” state bureaucracy run by controllers who saw themselves as being a cut above the rest of the world. The name of the society Mark yearned to join was the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments — N.I.C.E. Lewis described N.I.C.E. as:
the first fruits of that constructive fusion between state and laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes for a better world. It was to be free from almost all the tiresome restraints… which have hitherto hampered research in this country. It was also largely free from the restraints of economy…
This was a fictional foreshadowing of what Lewis feared would become a socio-political reality. Some of his reviewers begged to differ. At the time, the New York Times described That Hideous Strength as “superlatively nonsensical excitement, challenging implications,” while Time magazine called it a “well-written, fast-paced satirical fantasy.” That was in 1946.
Fast forward to 2009. Writing in National Review on September 21, 2009, John C. Goodman reported on the contemporary Britain’s National Health Commission:
“which currently recommends against any treatment that costs more than $45,000 to save a year of life. Because of [the commission], British cancer patients are denied access to drugs that are routinely available in the U.S. and on the European continent, and thousands die prematurely.”
The name of the commission he is talking about is the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. The British people refer to it by the more commonly recognized acronym: N.I.C.E.
I wish I could make this stuff up. In fact, when I read this story, I assumed that Mr. Goodman had made it up. He hadn’t. But the creepy stuff doesn’t stop there.
N.I.C.E. Roots of a State-Controlled Health Care System
Mr. Goodman’s story was about the fact that some American politicians thought N.I.C.E. was a great model to use in America. Then Senator Tom Daschle said so in his book, Critical: What We Can Do About The Health-Care Crisis.
Ten years later, the relentless pursuit of state-controlled health care systems continues. And make no mistake. Even though the issue is currently on the back burner of American politics, it won’t stay there for long. Politicians of both parties will revivify it. They will tout a better system. There will be promises of no “death panels.” They will sell it as a more economically efficient system.
Your Children Are Not Your Own
I am reminded of the late Senator Phil Gramm. During hearings about education reform in the 1990s, he was bantering with a bureaucrat who was defending government control. Gramm stated that his policies were based on the fact that “I care more about my children than you do.”
The bureaucrat responded, “No, you don’t.”
To which Gramm replied, “Okay, What are their names?”
The State Has No Moral Conscience
Senator Gramm’s pithy response illuminates the obvious. No government bureaucrat cares more about your family than you do. And the implications of that are inevitable. Behind all the N.I.C.E. talk you hear there will be budget constraints and bureaucrats tasked with keeping them. There will be medical review boards and “human rights” courts happy to enforce them. The state will decide which persons are worthy of living. And the state will replace your family and doctor as the moral authority for the decision.
But the state has no moral accountability or conscience. The state seeks only to be efficient. And when the time comes, you will have no say in the matter. Some bureaucrat will be responsible for deciding who gets what treatment.
Someone like Mark Studdock.
That is a hideous strength for anyone to wield. Just ask the parents of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans.
Bob Perry is a Christian apologetics writer, teacher, and speaker who blogs about Christianity and the culture at: truehorizon.org. He is a Contributing Writer for the Christian Research Journal, and has also been published in Touchstone, and Salvo. Bob is a professional aviator with 37 years of military and commercial flying experience. He has a B.S., Aerospace Engineering from the U. S. Naval Academy, and a M.A., Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart since 1985. They have five grown sons.
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