The Charlie Gard Case, and the Ethics of Obstructing International Transfer of Seriously Ill Children.
In 2017, the court case over medical treatment of UK infant, Charlie Gard, reached global attention. In this article, I will analyze one of the more distinctive elements of the case. The UK courts concluded that treatment of Charlie Gard was not in his best interests and that it would be permissible to withdraw life-sustaining treatment. However, in addition, the court ruled that Charlie should not be transferred overseas for the treatment that his parents sought, even though specialists in Italy and the US were willing to provide that treatment. Is it ethical to prevent parents from pursuing life-prolonging treatment overseas for their children? If so, when is it ethical to do this? I will outline arguments in defense of obstructing transfer in some situations. I will argue, however, that this is only justified if there is good reason to think that the proposed treatment would cause harm.