Our free and fearless press is facing up to a world of declining readerships and advertising revenue in the only way it knows how: not by stopping and thinking if it may be losing touch with the public, but by chasing harder and faster after any and every story that might generate a few more sales or clicks. So it has been with the case of terminally ill baby Charlie Gard, whose story continues to be exploited, even after his death.
So today both the Mail and Sun claim “exclusive” status for their articles, the Murdoch goons telling readers of “12 MINUTES OF HEARTBREAK … Charlie Gard fought for 12 minutes as his parents cuddled him after his breathing tube was taken out … Charlie was surrounded by mum, dad and his devoted grandparents after his breathing tube was removed by a hospice nurse”. Do readers need to know that? Whatever.
The Mail wants its faithful readers to know of “Our last hours with our son: Charlie Gard's parents emotionally reveal how they finally brought their baby home after he died in a hospice and spent several days saying their last goodbye”, adding apropos the end of a life tragically cut short “Of course, this represents no victory for anyone”. The irony in that apparently throwaway remark will not be lost on the medical profession.
It has been left to the Guardian to consider the doctors, nurses and support staff for whom the last days of Charlie Gard were turned into an unrelenting and often unpleasant and distressing media circus. One medic, writing on condition of anonymity, told the paper that “colleagues had been deeply affected by the case and were shocked to become the target of ‘horrendous and offensive’ abuse online and also from campaigners who camped outside the hospital”. Who might be involved was not hard to find.
The medic continued “Over the last few weeks, parts of the media and some members of the public have turned a poorly baby’s life into a soap opera, into a hot legal issue being discussed around the world”. The abuse was something else: “It’s things like ‘why are you trying to kill this child? You are all murderers’. It is horrendous and offensive. It is my job to stop people from dying, not to kill them”. And there was more.
“Colleagues had been deeply affected by the case and were shocked to become the target of ‘horrendous and offensive’ abuse online and also from campaigners who camped outside the hospital … The team of healthcare professionals also felt dismayed by interventions from people who ‘knew nothing’ about the condition Charlie suffered from, or the care he had been given”. Where do they feature in the Mail and Sun articles?
Apart from telling that a hospice nurse removed the little boy’s breathing tube, there is very little. That is not the fault of the parents and other relatives; it’s not their job to put together a balanced narrative. But it is incumbent on the press to use the size of its megaphone to suggest that the self-appointed know-alls pack in the abuse and lay off.
Instead, as the medic told the Guardian, “The case has also had an effect on other families here. Parents are nervous, they worry that we might not do the right thing for their child. That worry is not based on the care we are giving; it’s based on what you have been saying about medical staff you have never met”.
Kicking the NHS - something the press might desist from doing once in a while.