Last Tuesday, April 11, a High Court judge from London ruled with “the heaviest of hearts” but “complete conviction” that life support treatment in a hospital for eight-month-old baby Charlie Gard should be ended, despite his parents’ wish to take him to the US for treatment.
Baby Charlie suffers from a rare genetic disorder called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which affects the building blocks that give energy to cells. It is associated with irreversible brain damage and leaves a patient mostly unable to move.
At Great Ormond Street Hospital, where baby Charlie is being treated, doctors and specialists have asked the judge to rule if it is legal to withdraw life-support treatment.
Within days of investigation and study, Justice Nicholas Francis heard and balanced competing arguments over what should happen to baby Charlie. As reported by BBC News, hospital bosses representative Debra Powell QC, has told the court that a number of “world-renowned” experts have agreed that the child is not to be given long-term life support anymore as his “quality of life” is “very poor”.
Barrister Victoria Butler-Cole, who was appointed to represent the baby, said proposed treatment in the US was “purely experimental” and continuing his life support would only “prolong the process of dying.”
But the parents’ barrister, Sophia Roper, argued Charlie would not suffer significant harm if he was taken to the United States and should be given a chance to improve. She also claimed his parents’ wishes should carry “great weight.”
After the Judge’s decision, he was met with screams of “NO!” as Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, broke down in tears and buried their heads in their hands. The parents walked out of the court building without listening to the judge’s full reasoning behind his judgement. The parents rushed to their baby boy’s hospital bed after the emotional hearing at the High Court.
The family’s lawyer, Laura Hobey-Hamsher, said the couple would take further advice on challenging the ruling once their legal team have studied it. They have three weeks to lodge an appeal.
Hospital authorities said they would continue to provide the life-support treatment for the baby until a decision about an appeal had been made.
Justice Francis visited baby Charlie in the hospital and said, “I know this is the darkest day for Charlie’s parents…my heart goes out to them.”
He added, “I only hope in time they will come to accept it is in Charlie’s best interests to let him slip away peacefully, and not put him through more pain and suffering.”
The child’s parents had hoped to take baby Charlie to the United States where he would undergo a treatment trial for his disease.
For the treatment abroad, a crowdfunding campaign that reached £1.25m or USD1.56m was raised through more than 80,000 donations.