The ongoing case of the British couple who removed their son from a hospital there (against a local doctor's advice) and took him to Europe in search of more advanced therapy is highlighting, yet again, the insidious danger of the Big Brother "nanny state". The latest news:
The parents of a 5-year-old British boy with a severe brain tumor they took abroad against doctors' advice were at a Madrid courthouse awaiting the start of proceedings Monday on whether to extradite them to the U.K.
Ashya King's parents, who are also British, were arrested Sunday in southeastern Spain after a European arrest warrant was issued by Interpol at the request of British police. Their son is receiving medical treatment for a brain tumor, and after his parents' arrest he was admitted to a Spanish hospital.
The family has criticized Britain's health care system, saying he needs an advanced treatment option called proton beam therapy and that it wasn't being made available to him.
. . .
British police say the parents, Brett and Naghemeh, are suspected of neglect. They are both Jehovah's Witnesses, but there has been no indication they raised any religious issue about the boy's treatment.
There's more at the link.
All sorts of red flags are raised by this report.
- An international arrest warrant was issued for the couple - but they had committed no crime whatsoever. Nothing they did contravenes any law in Britain. They merely refused to submit to bureaucratic authority. I can't see any grounds for a criminal arrest warrant at all.
- There was (and is) no suggestion from anyone that the parents were planning to deny their son medical treatment on the grounds of their religious beliefs. Instead, they had openly told the hospital (and Britain's National Health Service) that they did not agree that the therapy offered their son was the best available, and planned to take him somewhere he could get the treatment they preferred.
- As far as I'm aware, there is no law giving the British state the authority to override parents' wishes concerning the care and raising of their children, unless there is evidence of neglect (which must be proved in a court of law before the children can be removed from their custody). Declining one form of medical treatment in favor of another - both of them recognized, standard treatments for the disease in question - is hardly 'neglect'; therefore, on what grounds were such allegations made? Was this simply an attempt by an overreaching bureaucracy to find some way - any way - to take charge of the child, because they felt they knew better than the parents what should be done?
- If a state-run health care system decides what treatment is to be offered, whether or not it's the best or most appropriate for your condition, you're at the mercy of that system as to whether you live or die. Sarah Palin's warning against 'death panels' comes very forcibly to mind. It may well be cheaper for the system to decide not to offer you a particular treatment; but if that means you'll die sooner, that's your problem, not theirs. They're just 'going by the rule book'.
If this is allowed to stand, it will further endorse a de facto (if not explicitly de jure) situation where the state can overrule parents at will concerning the health care of their children. From there it's a very short step to extend that to other aspects of child care.
- You want to homeschool your child? Sorry - the state says you can't.
- You want to send him to a private school? Forget it - the state says only its schools are suitable.
- Private schools want to offer a faith-based curriculum in addition to the state-endorsed academic education? No way! The state says that amounts to religious discrimination!
- You want to raise him in accordance with traditional Judeo-Christian moral and ethical standards? Sorry, you can't do that - it's not 'inclusive' or 'gender-neutral' enough.
- You want to let your son play with a toy gun? Gasp! Shock! Horror! Guns are evil! You're not fit to be a parent! You're raising him to be a menace to society!
American readers may assume that this can't happen here - but it can, and it does. There are legions of horror stories involving child protective services around the nation. A simple Internet search will reveal hundreds of sites with more details. Karl Denninger put it well:
But this case, as with the case of Justina Pelletier, shows that the government believes that children are in fact their property. Let us not forget that in Justina's case the state finally came to the conclusion that they were wrong and the parents (and their advocates in the medical system) were right. That is, they effectively admitted to kidnapping her, in retrospect.
So who went to prison for that? Nobody, and nobody will either. Justina, after a year of this, actually had custody of her formally awarded to the state.
And what is going to happen in this case? The parents have been arrested and will be extradited back to the UK and, of course, have been forcibly separated from their child.
Doesn't this tell you exactly what sort of relationship the state recognizes -- or doesn't, as the case may be -- when it comes to your children?
We're not talking about a situation here where two parents disagree and someone has to make a decision of some kind (e.g. in the instance of a divorce.) These are both cases where an intact family disagrees with what a state actor believes about a child born to that family. As soon as that happens you discover that the state in fact has claimed ownership of that child.
That's utterly outrageous -- but it in fact happens every day and nobody has done a thing to stop it.
Again, more at the link.
Bureaucrats hide behind government authority and their agency when dealing out such treatment. They'll claim to be "just doing their job". If you resist or insist on your "rights", they'll retaliate against you - as appears to be happening to the British couple mentioned above. Some have suggested that the only way to deal with such official over-intrusiveness, in this age of the "nanny state", is to retaliate in kind against those responsible. "You want to make my life difficult? Then I'll make yours just as difficult. I'll hold you, Mr. Bureaucrat, personally accountable for the damage you do to me and my family. I'll make you, personally, Ms. Bureaucrat, pay for it."
That's a slippery slope, all right, and it can be - and has been - rightly pointed out that in cases of genuine neglect, such retaliation may harm those trying to do their job properly and for good cause. However, in cases of bureaucratic overreach, what alternative does the average person have? If they can't touch the agency involved, or the politicians who passed the laws allowing such intrusion, they have few - if any - other avenues available to them. The courts tend to side with the bureaucrats, with the "official" position. Go read some of the sites at the link above to see that for yourself.
I honestly can't blame those who think that way. The "nanny state" is going too far, for far too many people, and the backlash is building. The tragedy is that it's likely to damage the good work some bureaucrats do, even as it seeks to punish the bad bureaucrats for their overreach. There are no winners in such a situation.