Recently an eight month old infant in the UK named Indi Gregory was taken off life-support, and was allowed to die. Indi had been diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease at the Nottingham University Hospital run by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), and the medical staff there did not foresee her condition improving and decided to remove all life-sustaining support. Indi’s parent’s disagreed with their prognosis and said that Indi was “disabled not dying,” and that she had been demonstrating all the normal signs of an infant such as moving, making noises and showing emotions.
Eventually Indi’s case gained international attention, with Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni even offering her citizenship and free travel to Bambino Gesừ, a Vatican-run pediatric hospital in Rome. However, in the UK disputes between parents and hospitals over medical treatments are settled by the judiciary based on what the courts feel is in the “best interests of the child.” In this case Justice Robert Peel ruled that Indi “shows no signs of recovery” and that ultimately “her conditions are untreatable” and thus she was removed from life support on November 13th.
There was however one silver lining in this whole sad affair, and that was Indi’s parents, who had not previously been religious, decided to have Indi baptized before she died. Indi’s father Dean stated that he and his wife chose to do so because of the unsettling presence they felt, or what Dean called “the pull of Hell,” all around them as they fought for their daughter’s life. Moreover, thanks to the support and witness of a Christian volunteer at the hospital, Dean came to realize that if there was a Hell, then there must be a Heaven, and he wanted to do all he could to make sure his little girl got there.
The Culture of Death Comes of Age
As tragic as the case of Indi Gregory was, it is not uncommon in the UK. Some may recall two other high profile cases, that of Charlie Gard in 2017 and Alfie Evans in 2018, both of whom had similar medical conditions. In the case of Evans, Pope Francis himself met with his parents and made the same offer of citizenship and treatment for Alfie in Italy. Sadly Alfie’s fate was also the same as Indi’s. There have of course been other less publicized but similar cases in the UK, from infants to teens, where life saving treatments were removed whenever the judiciary sided with the NHS.
Some of us in the US, who are accustomed to a different standard of freedoms regarding our medical care, might be wondering why Indi’s parent just didn’t check her out of the hospital and get on the flight offered to them to Italy? Furthermore, it is also worth wondering why UK courts and the NHS take such an uncompromising stance on the kind of care offered to infants with conditions like Indi, Alfie, or Charley? After all, it is one thing to recognize when everything that can be done, has been done, and that sometimes it is just time to say goodbye and let nature take its course. However, it is another thing entirely for a court or the State to rule that not only will life support be removed from one’s child but also to prevent the parents from accepting private offers of medical intervention.
One answer to this situation is that this is just the inevitable outcome of a nationalized heath care system where the demands of it users will always be capped by the tax revenues which fund it. When you have a finite amount of money, resources and health care workers, an institution like the NHS will have to triage medical care on a national level. This is something that many libertarian or conservative-minded commentators have warned about for years, especially during the debates over Obamacare or regarding the coming collapse of Medicaid/Medicare. This point was made clear in a recent debate at Cambridge University, when Daily Wire host Ben Shapiro said that his problem with something like the NHS was that, “inevitably you will have someone who is not you making the decision about your healthcare, and that person is going to have to take cost into account and you will not be part of the process.”
However, at a more profound level what we witnessed with the case of Indi Gregory was the coming of age of what St. John Paul the Great termed the “culture of death” in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae. In the same way that Humanae Vitae (written in 1968) predicted the sexually disordered world we live in today, Evangelium Vitae accurately predicted our contemporary culture where the quality of one’s life has superseded the sanctity of one’s life. The encyclical described the “culture of death” as a
“war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of "conspiracy against life" is unleashed.”
This “conspiracy against life” was indeed unleashed and 28 years later it is a major driving force behind the personal health care decisions and public policies made in this country and abroad. Worse still, the culture of death is now fully ensconced in the current Progressive popular culture, as the last remnants of any understanding of the sanctity of life have been debased into vague sentiments based on ideological or utilitarian factors. These factors, such as the much-touted diversity, equity, and inclusion, shape the algorithms upon which a massive bureaucratic healthcare entity like the NHS or Medicaid/Medicare operate.
This “entity” is reminiscent of the infrastructure found beneath the massive city in Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film Metropolis. In one iconic scene the hero Freder descends into the underworld to see how the city runs. There he witnesses workers acting in a mindless and robotic fashion, when a part of the machine explodes and kills some of the workers. Freder watches how the bodies are removed and then, under the auspices of two figures dressed in the garb of Babylonian priests, chained slaves and then lines of workers are forced into the machine and consumed by fire. The audience then sees the word “Moloch” flash acros the screen.
Lang’s message was clear, that the city of Metropolis and all its conveniences were built on the backs and blood of workers who kept the machine running, some of whom lost their lives doing so. Interestingly enough, Metropolis was banned in the US at one point because it was considered “too Marxist” and yet 100 years later it is the perfect analogy for the Marx-ish tenets upon which the NHS and Medicaid/Medicare are currently run. So while we rightly worry about the dangers A.I. poses to us in the future, just as pernicious is a bureaucratic entity that runs like some colossal healthcare machine where everyone knows how it works, but no one person is actually in control of it. It is a quasi-autonomous machine that, like the underworld machine in Metropolis, will inevitably consume the lives of some of those it is meant to help.
The Modern Healthcare Machine and its Kill-Switch
While all of us understand that no healthcare system will ever be perfect, we would like to think that we would not support one that treats people so callously, like mere cogs in a machine that can be replaced and discarded when it breaks down. We would like to think that we are (or would be) in full control of a national healthcare system so that it would not allow people to needlessly suffer, let alone die because of some deficiency in that system. And if a serious problem was found in the system, we would like to think that there would be some sort of “kill switch” that could be flipped in order to halt the system’s operations (or at least the parts that are hurting or killing people) so that it could be fixed or tweaked.
However, the way things stand now with the NHS and Medicaid/Medicare, that’s not what we have. The problem is that the US’ and the UK’s federal/national health care systems were designed by one generation of people, are run by another, and is currently helping a different one. Thus there is a vast gulf between those who designed the system and those who are using it (and voting for its future continuance) in terms of their views on the sanctity of life and the role of government in their lives.
So amidst all this bureaucratic muddle, does the NHS have a kill switch that Indi’s parents could have flipped when the judiciary in the UK ruled that Indi was to be left to die, regardless of any outside offers of help? What about in the US? The answer is yes, but as the cases of Indi Gregory, Alfie Evans and Charlie Gard have shown, it is not always the kind we have in mind.
Any nationalized healthcare system operates within the limits of the funding and resources it receives. However, if those resources decrease or are spent elsewhere (like for yet another foreign war), some variable in the machine’s efficiency equation will have to be changed or eliminated in order for it to keep running. And just like the meme that says that “you are the carbon” that radical environmentalists want to eliminate, when it comes to modern nationalized healthcare, now and in the near future, you are the variable in the operational equation that will have to be truncated or eliminated for the system to keep working. In other words, the kill switch doesn’t turn the healthcare machine off, it will essentially turn others “off” by denying them life-sustaining medical care.
Like it or not, this reality will continue unabated in both the UK and the US. Especially since Western nations are not replacing themselves and are consequently being swamped with refugees from all over the world and demanding public assistance from already overloaded systems. Furthermore, the aging populations in both the East and the West, will draw an oversized proportion of medical resources in the last years of their lives. Hence, it is no idle question to ask at what point does someone’s right to die “with dignity” turn into a duty to die for the sake others? To say nothing of children like Indi, Alfie, or Charlie who are born with a disability that the healthcare system deems unsustainable, and thus unworthy of treatment. In all these situations, the nationalized/federal healthcare system will enact a sort of Moloch protocol for a portion of its patients as the system’s kill switched is flipped!
So be wary and be vigilant of your lives and liberty, and start finding or forming other means of healthcare that are run by individual persons or churches and not by unelected bureaucrats, many of whom are working on auto-pilot. For as it stands right now, they are the ones who have access to (but not control of) modern medicine’s kill switch.
Photo Credit- bbc.co. uk