Trump Offers Help, Residency to British Child; Silent on Sick Muslim Boy
Charlie Gard is a British infant with a rare genetic disease which has left him blind, deaf, and unable to move on his own. Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London were set to remove him from life support at the end of June, believing that nothing more could be done for the boy. The parents, however, had heard that a US hospital might have an experimental treatment, tried on patients with a similar condition. The hospital sought a court ruling, and last April it came down: the treatment was risky, and if it could not improve his brain damage, how would the child be better off? On that basis, the British court allowed the hospital to cease all treatment, in a ruling that also prohibited Charlie’s transfer overseas.
This case involving a child with no ties to the US attracted the attention of President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans because it had attracted the attention of their base due to those two facts. Trump first mentioned the case on Twitter on July 3, saying that “if we can help little Charlie Gard, as per our friends in the UK and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.”
If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2017
Help Acquiring U.S. Residency
He seemed to imply a willingness to officially help resolve the issue of acquiring US residency for Charlie and the Gards. Two Republican congressmen then introduced legislation on the issue. This interest from Trump — and the GOP and American right more broadly — seems to be rather at odds with Trump’s campaign and inaugural emphasis on “America First”. At least, it does in theory, if one takes that emphasis to mean “focusing first and foremost on the concerns of US citizens and US residents on US territory”. But it seems, judging by their involvement in this case, that other political motives are at work for Trump. On the one hand, in the midst of the political fight over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and with US medical outcomes in infant mortality being worse than those in the UK, the American right may like the chance to seize the moral high ground. On the other, Charlie Gard is white British, meaning he comes from the culture that American conservatives most wish to preserve their connections to.
No Similar Offer to Help Sick Muslim Child
By contrast, Trump has been entirely silent about the possibility of helping children like six-year-old Mohammad, a Syrian refugee currently receiving cancer treatment in Jordan after fleeing there with his family in 2014. The American lawyer working with the boy’s family had hoped to have him medically evacuated to the US for better treatment. The child and his family were, however, directly affected by the travel ban issued by the Trump administration against seven Muslim countries. So were other Syrian refugee children seeking care, such as the siblings Hamzah and Jinan, who are going blind. The silence of the US president about these cases of sick Syrian children who were bound for the US for treatment and then thrown into limbo due to the abrupt nature of his ban paints a rather disturbing picture when compared to his offer of help regarding Charlie Gard, a child legally prohibited from traveling by his own country who is already under the care of one of the best health systems on the planet.