Understanding the value of life

Charles Matthew William Gard was just six days from turning one-year-old when he passed away. Life is a precious commodity, and many hold it in the highest regard, but too often we forget how fragile a human life is in this world. Sometimes we must persevere to try and gain an extension on life, but many times we do not get that chance. In that fragment of time, we must savor the embrace of your loved ones.

Charlie had a rare genetic disorder that caused progressive brain damage and muscle failure.  Mitochondrial DNA Depletion Syndrome (MDDS) has no current cure and causes lots of pain in those affected, mainly infants. In Charlie’s case, he was put on life support just two months after he was born. By the time January came around, Charlie was still on life support and failing to breathe on his own. The medical team behind Charlie told his family that it would be best to suspend medical support and to let him pass, but like most families, they would not let go that easily. The family fought to get the medical team to perform an experimental treatment. They refused because they saw the treatment that the infant Charlie was going through as just extending the pain.

I find that I agree with the medical team that the treatment only furthered the anguish of the child. We cannot push life onto things that have spent the time that they have already. This is morbid, but we should understand the limitations of ourselves. The parents were also not wrong in trying to help their child survive; I may not have kids, but I imagine that I would stop at nothing to help them live. Knowing when to stop a pursuit that could lead to the death of your only child is a hard thing to contemplate.

Everyone should have the chance to live a full life, but we do not have the luxury to have a safety net in this life. When infant mortality was highest 200-plus years ago, parents did not even name their children until they turned two. With modern hospitals, we have the ability to name our children after birth without a significant consequence of infant mortality. This comfort makes us forget that in the past things were a great deal worse. One day we will look upon the days that we have lived in as medieval and filled with horrible choices that a parent has to make to secure the life of their children. In the future, everyone will have a chance to live a full life, but until then let us cherish the moments that we have with those that we love.


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