Parents of British baby Charlie Gard decide to let him die, abandoning legal fight to get treatment in US
‘We only wanted to give him a chance at life. There’s now no way back for Charlie’: mother Connie Yates
Quiet sobs reverberated in a London courtroom Monday as the parents of the terminally ill baby Charlie Gard told a judge that they had decided to let their “sweet, gorgeous and innocent” boy go and were withdrawing a bid to bring him to the United States for experimental treatment.
Bowing to the consensus of medical experts, Charlie’s mother, Connie Yates, said the couple no longer believes that the therapy will help their child.
“We only wanted to give him a chance at life,” Yates said, fighting back tears of her own as the boy’s father, Chris Gard, stood close behind her. “There’s now no way back for Charlie. Time has been wasted. It’s now time that has suddenly gone against him.”
The parents’ decision ends months of intense and emotional legal battles that drew the attention of US President Donald Trump and Pope Francis. The 11-month-old boy, who suffers from a rare genetic condition that has left him brain-damaged and unable to move or breathe on his own, will now be taken off a ventilator and receive palliative care only.
The London hospital that has been caring for Charlie since October, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, has said that further treatment would be futile and might cause the baby additional suffering.
The hospital obtained a court order in April allowing doctors to withdraw life support so Charlie could “die with dignity.” Britain’s Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom agreed with the decision, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, declined to take up the case last month.
But when hospital officials were contacted by facilities in the United States and Italy willing to take over Charlie’s care, they agreed to return to London’s High Court to give the original judge a chance to reconsider.
The family was pinning its hopes on a therapy proposed by Dr Michio Hirano, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Centre, that has helped children with a different version of Charlie’s condition regain some functions.
The judge asked Hirano to come to London last week to evaluate Charlie and meet with his medical team.
The couple’s lawyer, Grant Armstrong, told the court Monday that new scans showed that Charlie had suffered irreparable muscular damage, leaving no chance for the therapy to work.
“Some cases are about legal principles … some cases are about legal facts and expert opinions … some cases are also about time, and sadly this case is now about time,” Armstrong said. “For Charlie, it’s too late.”
Katie Gollop, a lawyer for the hospital, expressed sympathy for the family, saying: “We have more sorrow than we have words to say.”
Charlie’s plight has generated international attention. Trump and the pope both tweeted support for Charlie’s family. Last week, a congressional committee voted unanimously to approve an amendment that would grant permanent UU residency to Charlie and his parents. Conservative Christian and anti-abortion groups in the United States also took up the family’s cause.
The parents have said they hope to set up a foundation in Charlie’s name “so his voice can continue to be heard.”