As pro-life advocacy on behalf of little Charlie Gard advances, one assumption comes up often from those defending the British government’s actions: that medical professionals should have the final say, especially regarding what care should be provided to a child born with rare health issues.
Yet hardly any medical prognosis is delivered with 100 percent certainty. Full disclosure: my dad is a family practice physician, and I have siblings who are licensed medical professionals. One cannot overestimate how much medical science has contributed to prolonged life expectancy and better health outcomes for people worldwide. Many of the most compelling pro-life voices are nurses and doctors, faithfully serving their patients.
Let’s leave aside for a moment how some medical experts disagree with the “consensus” Great Ormond Street Hospital has tried to establish about Charlie Gard’s condition and what options his family has. The truth is, doctors driven to alleviate suffering are limited by their own experience, knowledge, and resources.
Sometimes parents reject the narrow options given them and later are glad they did, as in the five stories that follow. They reveal not only insights into medical ethics and parents’ rights — but, perhaps, also a higher power at work in frail lives whom modern society tragically seeks to discard.
1. Doctors Said Their Baby Girl’s Condition Was Surely Fatal
Most know Jaime Beutler as a Congresswoman from Washington State. Yet public office didn’t matter for her and her husband Dan when, in 2012, they went in for a routine sonogram of their first child. "He just leaned forward and he said, 'I can't see any kidneys. I don't think your baby has any kidneys,'” recounted Buetler in a recent CNN interview. “We knew whatever it was, was bad."
Despite doctors’ blunt recommendation that she abort the developing life inside, Buetler and her husband decided: “We're gonna contend.” They went public with their story, and a stranger reached out knowing of an experimental treatment. A doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. was willing to try it, ultimately leading to what ABC News called a “miracle” — the first baby born without kidneys.
Since then, Dan Buetler has donated one of his kidneys to his daughter and little Abigail is now three years old.
2. This Texas Family Never Gave Up—and Their Boy Left a Legacy of Joy
Not every story unfolds as parents would desire. Yet even in relatively short lives, the love shared is no less real. “I was 23 when I became pregnant with our firstborn,” states Lisa Smiley of Frisco, Tx. “My husband James and I were totally ecstatic to be expecting. However, at our 20-week ultrasound, a major life-threatening heart defect was found.”
“They warned us that this was usually a cause for abortion,” she continues. “We were stunned. Yet we had decided a long time ago that abortion was wrong, under any circumstance; now our convictions would be tested in real life.” Born in early 2008, little Zeke was surrounded with love every moment by his family.
Lisa recounts: “Zeke had a happy and vibrant childhood. Because his health was so fragile, my husband never wanted to take a day with him for granted. James taught Zeke how to fish, hunt, do Bigfoot calls, make forts, and all sorts of other things he deemed necessary for our boy to learn.” The day after Christmas 2015, Zeke went on to eternity — leaving a legacy of joy and seven years of cherished moments.
3. Born with Cerebral Palsy, He Became a Congressional Aide and Public Speaker
Today, Aaron Welty works for the federal government and tells his life-affirming story through his writing and as a public speaker. But that’s not the outcome doctors predicted, as Welty shares in a recent article.
“Born ten weeks premature thirty-plus years ago, at a time when such a degree of underdevelopment was a death sentence—and the doctors made their prognosis very clear to my parents — I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy,” he writes. “During a difficult birth process, doctors wanted to halt the efforts to keep me alive but my parents persisted in the fight for life.”
While he regularly faces joint pain, muscle fatigue and other physical limitations, Welty has not let that slow him down. He worked for six years on Capitol Hill, has spoken at multiple comics conventions on the theme of “heroism in weakness,” and he hopes to publish his first book in the season ahead.
4 & 5. Doctors Recommended “Termination” for Two of Rick Santorum’s Children
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum has shared often of his daughter Bella, born with Trisomy 18 which can cause developmental difficulties — and his son Gabriel, who was born prematurely after being diagnosed with a birth defect.
“My children Gabriel and Bella were both candidates for abortion,” Santorum writes in an excerpt from Bella’s Gift. “Both infants’ obstetricians felt compelled to advise us that the most popular option for parents carrying children like Gabriel and Bella was termination — in other words, abortion.”
Tragically, Gabriel only lived two hours outside his mother’s womb — though his fight for life made an impact on many, including being mentioned on the Senate floor during a critical debate over partial-birth abortion. As to nine year-old Bella, she and the rest of the Santorum family recently traveled to Ireland for a family wedding.
Every life carries great value and special purpose—even those doctors may deem “incompatible with life.” The international outcry in solidarity with the parents of Charlie Gard is growing louder. In the U.S., many are now pressing state legislatures to pass what is known as “Simon’s Law” to protect parents’ authority regarding medical intervention of their children.
Josh Shepherd has served on staff at The Heritage Foundation, Focus on the Family, Bound4LIFE International, and two Congressional offices. His articles have appeared in media outlets including The Federalist, The Daily Signal, Boundless, Charisma News and Christian Headlines, where he serves as a contributor. He earned a degree in Business Marketing from the University of Colorado. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area. Follow Josh on Twitter @joshMshep.
Photo: Lisa Smiley of Frisco, Tx. talks a walk with her son Zeke — whom doctors advised to terminate while he was in the womb. After seven full years, Zeke died on December 26, 2015 leaving a legacy of joy with family and friends.
Photo Courtesy: Lisa Smiley / LisaSmiley.com
Publication date: July 12, 2017