Why we must protect parental autonomy

By Claire Fox | 09 August 2017
  • Claire Fox

The tragic death of baby Charlie Gard ended months of international debate about a complex moral case. Who didn’t feel for the tragic parents, grasping at any sliver of hope? Or understand the public disquiet when the courts stopped Charlie’s parents removing him from hospital to access experimental medical treatment in America? The case touched a raw nerve. When does the state have the right to over-rule parental decisions about their own child?

Medics at Great Ormond Street showed great sensitivity to Charlie’s parents. They understood one cannot be cavalier about over-ruling parental wishes. This may seem far removed from more mundane, everyday decisions about the state’s jurisdiction over children versus parental freedom, but councils contend with such ethical questions all the time.

Historically, councils recognised state intervention into family life should be rare, proportionate and handled with due respect. But councils and devolved authorities have become more gung-ho.

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