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Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to take him to US for treatment

This is an undated handout photo of Chris Gard and Connie Yates with their son, Charlie Gard, provided by the family, at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. The president of the United States has offered to help. The pope is willing to have the Vatican hospital take the baby in. Some 1.3 million pounds ($1.68 million) has been raised to help him leave Britain for treatment. But as of July 4, 2017, little had changed for Charlie, a terminally ill British infant suffering from a rare genetic disease that has left him severely brain-damaged. (Family of Charlie Gard via AP)

LONDON (USA Today) — A five-month legal battle to get permission to take terminally ill baby Charlie Gard to the United States for experimental treatment has ended after his parents told a British court they were withdrawing their legal challenge.

Grant Armstrong, a lawyer representing Chris Gard, 32, and Connie Yates, 31, told Britain’s High Court on Monday (July 24) that “time had run out” and that the 11-month-old’s parents had made the decision after the American doctor who offered to treat the baby told them it was too late and wouldn’t work.

The couple cried as Armstrong addressed the court. Yates told the court that she “only wanted to give him a chance of life” and hoped that that his life had not been in vain.

Armstrong said the pair now wanted “to spend the maximum amount of time they have left with Charlie.” The court previously ruled that Gard’s life-support machine should be switched off and that he should be allowed die with “dignity.”

Gard has a rare, incurable genetic disorder and his disease has left him with brain damage and unable to move. He can’t see or hear and needs a ventilator to breathe. His parents, supported by Michio Hirano, a neurology professor at Columbia University Medical Center, and Italian medical researchers, were seeking the legal right to take him to the U.S. to receive an untested therapy they admitted would not save him.

The London hospital where Gard has received all his treatment believed there was no medical evidence to support claims the therapy could work. It also feared it could prolong his suffering. In Britain, disputes between families and doctors over how to treat a patient are decided by courts. In the U.S., the family makes that decision.

But Armstrong said the parents decided to withdraw from the case after Hirano was no longer willing to administer the therapy after he saw the results of a new MRI scan of Gard’s brain. He concluded his brain and muscular damage were too severe.

Gard’s parents had raised almost $2 million to treat his illness, known as encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, abroad.

The case has drawn massive international interest including high-profile interventions from President Trump and Pope Francis in support of the family. Congressional Republicans sought to pass legislation that would give the Gard family U.S. residency and a potential route to treatment there, although it wasn’t not clear whether that would ultimately have enabled them to obviate a British court decision.

In Britain, the case has reignited the debate around right-to-life issues, in particular whether requesting treatment that medical evidence shows won’t work is an absolute moral right to be asserted by family members or whether hospitals and courts are better placed to make decisions about what is in a patient’s best interest.

Over the weekend, the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London revealed its staff had received death threats over the case. “Thousands of abusive messages have been sent to doctors and nurses whose life’s work is to care for sick children. Many of these messages are menacing, including death threats,” the hospital said in a statement.

“Families have been harassed and discomforted while visiting their children, and we have received complaints of unacceptable behavior even within the hospital itself.”

On Monday, a lawyer representing the hospital said that the hearts of everyone at the hospital “go out to Charlie, his mother and father.”

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Kim Hjelmgaard

24 Comments

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  • This is just a redo of the Terri Schiavo imbroglio in which right-wing organizers focused on a medical tragedy to spread disinformation. Gard pere and Yates are to be commended for ending their family’s use as a propaganda tool.

  • So the hospital, aided and abetted by the Parliament and courts in the UK and EU, have by dragging the case out succeeded in their quest to murder Charlie. My heart goes out to the parents that have been so fundamentally betrayed by the government that was supposed to protect them and their son.

  • Murder him? That’s pretty strong. Besides massive brain damage his condition is terminal and his death is imminent. The chance for any relief was next to none. While there is reason to argue what the government’s role should be, calling this decision murder is unreasonable.

  • That is the LAST thing on their minds. A parent will gladly be used as any kind of “tool” necessary in order to save their child.

  • Conservative Christians believe that children are blessings given by God to parents and not to a government. Every parent and every child has been given inalienable rights by their Creator. They are not dispensed by governments but given by God to human beings created in His image. That concept fueled our forefathers quest for liberty from a British King George III who believed he had the divine right to control whomever and wherever. The British evidentially have still have not caught on, as demonstrated in this case. Medical care in Great Britain is seemingly all about money and not people. There are biblically three separate spheres of authority: Family, Church, State.The right to life, to preserve life, and make every attempt medically in that pursuit for a child belongs to parents and not courts or medical personnel.

  • I don’t think you understood my comment. They ended the media circus. My suspicion is they realized they were being played. People in this sort of situation often have unrealistic expectations; it seems they accepted reality instead.

  • I heard Gard speak on BBC. He said quite frankly that Charlie had missed his chance for an effective treatment because critical time had been wasted in the courts while the child’s brain and muscle function was allowed to deteriorate irreversibly. He left little doubt as to whom he held responsible.

  • “Murder: the intentional, unjustified ending of a human life.” The doctors moved into the “murder” category as soon as they overrode the parents’ wish to seek further treatment, and that shift was confirmed with the announcement that the reason further treatment is impossible is because of DETERIORATION suffered by Charlie during the drawn-out court battles as his parents fought for his life.

    The fact that the hospital chose to override Charlie’s parents is monstrous, and that fact that they had the power to do so is terrifying. I am very glad that none of my family lives in such a barbaric place as the UK.

  • There’s an important difference between the Terri Schiavo case and Charlie Gard. For Terri, it was a fight between her husband and her parents: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” In the absence of clear issues with her husband making the decision (which I didn’t hear of), the decision properly belonged to him.

    But for Charlie Gard, it’s a very different matter: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” I don’t see anything about the government in that. Again, in the absence of clear issues with his parents (especially considering they were able to raise private funding), the decision properly belonged to them — NOT the State.

  • I can’t agree where medical care is concerned. Children get removed from parental custody every day when parents do things like take children with cancer to faith healers. That is not likely to cease, nor should it.

  • There is a fundamental difference between parents refusing to permit established, effective treatment for their children for religious reasons and parents, having been told by the professionals that their child cannot be helped by any standard treatment and then have those same professionals prevent them from seeking nonstandard treatment that MIGHT help their child. The first clearly falls under child abuse. The second just as clearly does not.

    So, since doctors in the UK have the right to override the parents, what else does the government have the right to override? Or will, following the same logic used to justify the power these doctors have? If I was a parent in the UK, I’d be strongly considering emigrating to the US right now.

  • Quite obviously, the government which arrogated the ability to make a decision that properly belonged to the parents alone.

  • If you think in the U.S. the medical establishment’s control over medical matters is somehow better, you’re delusional. I assume those silly questions are rhetorical.

  • No, they accepted the American DOCTOR’S decision that it was now too late for the proposed treatment to help their son. But they still hold their government responsible for the delay caused by its unjustified intervention in the matter.

  • Grant Armstrong, a lawyer representing Chris Gard, 32, and Connie Yates,
    31, told Britain’s High Court on Monday (July 24) that “time had run
    out”and that the 11-month-old’s parents had made the decision after the
    American doctor who offered to treat the baby told them it was too late
    and wouldn’t work.
    (emphasis added)

    Hardly an admission that they “realized they were being played” but an admission that the court had been able to delay the treatment to the point it would no longer be able to provide any possible benefit for the infant.

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