Why do U.K. judges sentence children like Alfie Evans to die? (and other stories)

A roundup of news and commentary from around the interwebs.

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Laurel Hubbard, a biological male identifying as female who was given the go-head to compete in women’s weightlifting at the Tokyo Olympics, flamed out almost immediately. Hubbard was nearly two decades older than most contestants (age 43), but some will inevitably use this as evidence that transgender people can compete in female sports without having an unfair advantage.

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Trudeau’s pre-election campaign to remind progressives that nobody is a bigger fan of abortion than he is continues, this time with commitment to give $366,000 to the University of New Brunswick to research ways to provide access to surgical abortion. In Liberal land, there is no such thing as an unwanted abortion—just not enough abortions. I laid out my thoughts in this Twitter thread:

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Remember the tragic cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans in the United Kingdom? Another case is unfolding, and Dan Hitchens has a good explainer over at The Critic:

The pandemic has been a lesson in power: nothing can compete, it turns out, with the combined force of the modern state and the medical establishment. Western governments have long had extraordinary capacities for surveillance, control and punishment — but it’s only when they started “following the science” that this actually translated into people being fined for sitting on park benches, banned from seeing relatives, and now, some predict, subjected to a social-credit-style regime of vaccine passports and semi-compulsory health monitoring. Suddenly the decades of Lefty theorising about “biopolitics” and “techno-medical despotism” seem a bit less abstract.

Of course, you can regard the last eighteen months as a necessary, temporary episode rather than a sinister new dawn. But either way, it casts a fresh light on familiar disputes about the state versus the individual. Take the current controversy over Alta Fixsler, a severely disabled two-year-old girl from Manchester. Her parents want to take her abroad for healthcare. The courts have prevented them, ruling that she should instead be taken off life support. Cue international outrage — especially from the US, where prominent politicians from Marco Rubio to Chuck Schumer have sided with Alta’s parents. Now Alta has been granted a US visa, even though the High Court had refused her permission to travel.

As with the cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, Alta’s story has exposed a strange detail of the British system: when parents and doctors disagree about a gravely-ill child, a judge has to decide on that child’s “best interests” without giving special weight to the parents’ wishes. If the doctors say they think extra treatment or care is too burdensome, the court is very likely to back the doctors over the parents — in other words, to “follow the science.”

True, parents’ rights shouldn’t be unlimited; true, doctors are the experts. But the experts have sometimes got these cases wrong; and the heartbreaking result of the UK system is that parents are prevented from even trying to save their children’s lives. At the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Baker conceded that the current law can seem cruel. “I understand why [Alta’s parents] have pursued this appeal and deeply regret that I cannot do more to help them,” he said in his ruling. “As a judge, however, my duty is to apply the law.”

There is a movement to reform that law: instead of judges and doctors deciding on a child’s “best interests”, a court could only overrule parents’ wishes if doctors show that the child is at risk of “significant harm.” There are several good reasons to hope for such a change. It would acknowledge the rights of parents; it would prevent national embarrassment the next time this happens; and by checking the power of doctors over life-and-death decisions, it would be a small sign that we aren’t doomed to live under a medical tyranny.

We hope the movement for reform will succeed.

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Unsurprisingly, liberal activists are very pleased with Biden’s record of judicial appointments thus far. Vox has a lengthy story on the battle over judicial confirmations here.

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More soon.

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