Sunday, July 30, 2017

Charlie Gard and Implicit Bias

I could be totally wrong about this, but felt moved to write it, so here goes.
When I saw a middle class Christian post on Facebook the link to a Melanie Phillips article that called the Charlie Gard campaign an 'ignorant' campaign, it immediately reminded me the spin put on the Brexit referendum. This spin goes like this, 'working class people have fought for an opinion they have, they must be ignorant.' This comes from a false narrative about working class people that has been believed in the UK for years, and leads to implicit bias. In a similar way there is an implicit bias towards Americans in this case who surely cannot possibly understand how our system works (which is contrary to my experience of Americans being far more knowledgeable of our system that we are of theirs)!

Implicit bias means that a middle class person will often not be aware that they are judging a working class person in accordance with the narratives they've grown up hearing. They will conclude the working class person is ignorant or misguided, after all how could a working class person be right over a middle class person?

Implicit bias means a well meaning middle class friend once asked me, 'How come you know so much?' He had been taught a narrative of the council estate man that meant I could not be knowledgeable, and if I was, there must be something mysterious going on.

Implicit bias means that when a middle class family leave their child unattended in a hotel room, and the child is kidnapped, they will still get the full support of the UK police and more. Meanwhile, had the same happened to a council estate family, they would have been vilified. Furthermore, when a postman dad fought hard for Charlie, many working class non-christians supported him, whilst many middle class christians judged him.

This implicit bias means that the smokescreen of 'ignorance' covers over other key issues:

1. Who decides what's best for a child, parents or the state? And how do they decide this?  It might be easier for middle class people to say the state, but look at the state's track record of 'caring' for the working class. I still remember when the state decided it was best for many working class kids to be put in care homes where they would be abused. Its particularly troubling to see Christians advocating for the State's powers over parents.

2. How are the 'best interests' of a child decided? The recent judgment claimed the court could be 'objective', whilst parents might be affected by 'emotion'. To claim objectivity without clearly stating the worldview of the court or the state is disingenuous. GOSH's decision months ago to not allow Charlie to go to the states was not made in a neutral vacuum, there was a worldview behind it. British society needs to acknowledge it has a non-neutral worldview that impacts decisions.

3. What does the state mean when it says it does what's best for the child? As a disabled man in constant pain and low quality of life, I am deeply concerned about some of the implications here. Look at the trend for how disabilities are being treated in the UK. What is the worldview behind this?

4. Is the state consistent with this message? The state has killed millions of children under the premises of 'its better for the child to be aborted than unwanted' as well as 'its the mother's choice'. How can we know when to trust the courts' statement that, 'its in the child's best interest.'

5. Do parents have the right for second opinions, and experimental treatment they can pay for? And if they do, why criticise parents who do so? GOSH could have very easily allowed Charlie to go to the States when first requested, why were they so obtrusive? The BBC say, 'Prof Julian Savulescu, an expert in ethics at Oxford University... believes Charlie's parents should have been allowed to take him to the US earlier in the year - even with the low odds that the treatment would have worked - given that they had raised £1.3m themselves. He says GOSH - and the doctors the hospital consulted - made a "value judgement" that was reasonable to disagree with.''

6. Do wealthy parents have the option to get their child the help they think they need? Had Charlie been born into a wealthy family, with private health care, could he have traveled to the USA and had treatment? I genuinely want to know what my options are if one of my children is sick under the NHS.

7. We have not yet been given any conclusive evidence that Charlie would not have benefited from treatment sooner. What narratives were at play that prevented this? What about all the other children who were told they should pull the plug, only to then see that child grow all the way into adulthood whilst contributing to society? What role should hope play in these situations (Love always hopes).

8. Some of us do have a distrust of doctors. Sometimes this is based on bad diagnoses, and incorrect operations (both in my case). Other times it is because us working class people are used to having medical professionals talk down to us, telling us our opinions about our body or our children's bodies are wrong (also my experience). Medical staff need to be trained in implicit bias, so that they can become more trusting of us, and rebuild trust.

9. The automatic assumption that GOSH can do no wrong is troubling. The medical profession itself is very confused right now with remnants of the hypocatic oath mingled with abortion services.

10. What does 'die with dignity' mean? My belief in the afterlife affects my understanding of this phrase. But the phrase is used far too broadly today without clear definition.

Lastly, if the word 'ignorant' is being used, why is it being used of the parents who knew Charlie better than any of us? Should it not be used of those sitting in their armchairs pontificating on how they know what's better for Charlie (based on reading the GOSH statement that was written by their lawyer)!

I take comfort in the fact that God is not classist. If anything, he shows special favour to the needy. I thank God that one day he will bring about a world devoid of classism. Even if Charlie's condition was something that could not be stopped, surely classism can?