The Great Right Wing Dying Baby Scam of 2018

Having observed the left so successfully garner media attention by using grieving loved ones of the dead as human shields against rational argument, the Religious Right must have been reminded that it was the original player at that game. From the people who brought you the Terri Schiavo scam, poor little Alfie Evans this month became the center of the Great Right-Wing Dying Baby Scam of 2018. The scam is the lie-packed narrative that the parents in the case have had their baby sacrificed to a state death panel: proof at last that the statists will pull the plug on your dying baby if they think keeping him alive isn't justified by the costs. Virtually everything said about this case by the right has been a lie. And the Catholics have once again foolishly thrust themselves into this case, proving once again that when the chips are down, the Church under Francis remains the same as it always has.

The right-wing narrative goes something like this: little Alfie Evans is suffering from a terrible brain disease, which doctors in the United Kingdom have determined cannot be treated, has already destroyed the majority of his brain, and will lead to the boy's death sooner rather than later. There is a team of doctors in Italy who believe they can perform a procedure that can keep him alive -- and since the family can secure private funding to finance the procedure, the state has clearly decided that, in the words of Ramesh Ponnuru, he has been "sentenced to death by starvation for the crime of being dependent on others."

Alfie Evans was not 'sentenced to death.' He was finally permitted by the state to be released from a state of unnatural persistent living death; the family's desire to keep him alive in a permanent vegetative state, driven by the clouding bad judgment that accompanies grief and anguish, is selfish and cruel, regardless of the purity of their love for their child. I am sick and tired of the right-wing claiming the moral high ground on this issue: their position is not compassionate and it is not humane. They are not defenders of the rights of parents against an oppressive state. The parents' grief is heart-wrenching and their pain is impossible not to feel -- but it is precisely in moments like these that a neutral third-party arbiter is most needed. The state in this case served as the defender of the right of the individual to a dignified death at a rational time. Death is not intrinsically evil or horrible. An eventual death is a natural part of being alive, and there is a rational time for family members to let go. The Catholics in this case have arrived at the utterly warped conclusion that it is somehow holy or dignified to force someone to stay alive via artificial means in an unnatural state of living death, in which nothing about life can be experienced or enjoyed. It is their position which is anti-nature, and anti-life.

Everyone in the case agrees that the baby had no chance of recovering -- including the parents and the doctors in Italy. The fact that doctors in Italy are willing to perform a procedure to artificially extend an unnatural state of living death in order to satisfy the parents' grief-driven selfishness proves nothing -- because the question at stake is entirely about whether the baby has a right to die. It cannot be stated too emphatically that the right-wing has been lying about the nature of the procedure which was to be performed by the Italian doctors. The procedure would have merely kept Alfie alive in a persistent vegetative state.

Many of the religious in these cases simply reject the findings of doctors and believe that God, the divine physician, is capable of working miracles; that we should always preserve life in the hope that something might happen -- even something beyond our human comprehension and beyond the scope of the findings of medicine. This is utter madness, akin to supporting the right of parents to perform exorcisms on their children rather than provide proven medical solutions.

The religious right has formed an unholy alliance with a certain breed of libertarian-conservative; a variety of activist addicted to hating the government and unable to view cases like these through any lens except that of the individual versus the state. In fact, the classical liberal tradition in the vein of John Locke says that our natural rights as individuals exist prior to any right of the family over the individual, and that the state is formed to protect our rights as individuals. Those who claim to be defenders of individual rights yet believe children are essentially the property of their parents are not being honest with themselves. 

Some have asked, in a last-ditch emotional appeal, something like: "If this were Prince Harry's baby, would we be having this conversation?" This sad attempt to smuggle class resentment into the argument is an evasion: if this were Prince Harry's baby, I would certainly hope the state would step in to protect the right of his baby to die with dignity, and at the right time, too. If the state would allow a royal to keep his baby alive in a state of living death because he cannot bear to let go, then the state would indeed be unjustly elevating class privilege above individual rights. 

Let us say again -- because it cannot be said enough, because we live in a culture in which memes about 'death panels' spread like wildfire -- that this court decision had nothing to do with money and everything to do with the welfare of the child as an individual. The right-wing in this case believes in the grotesque principle that life should be preserved at any human cost -- just like it wanted to keep Terri Schiavo alive against her own wishes as relayed by her husband. The fact that these very same crusaders against the state wanted the state to intervene to override Terri Schiavo's own wishes as expressed by her husband, to whom legal authority to make medical decisions on her behalf, proves that they are lying when they pretend they see this as a battle of the family against the state. They want to come down on the side of life-at-any-human-cost, and they do it because they think God might perform a miracle on brain-dead people. The state must protect the individual against these kinds of religious zealots -- because they certainly do not speak for God. 

Alex Knepper