Very shortly after life support was withdrawn, Charlie Gard died. His distraught mother said that his sad, short life had more effect on the world than many people who’ve lived a lot longer.
What that thought says to me is how important it is for us to believe that life matters — any life, all life, even a brief, terribly afflicted one. Charlie’s devastating genetic illness began to destroy his body before he was two months old. He couldn’t breathe, swallow, cry, open his eyes — do much of anything that young babies do. But his life did matter, certainly to the parents who loved him, and to the caregivers who worked so hard to keep him alive. In an earlier era, when medical technology was simpler, Charlie would have died much sooner. Now, someone — in the end the courts — had to determine that life support should be withdrawn. It’s a mixed blessing, our ability to keep a body functioning even when there is no real hope.