The parents of Charlie Gard have abandoned their legal challenge for the right to seek treatment for their son. Charlie is the infant who captured international attention after a British hospital refused to allow his parents to pursue experimental treatment saying treatment would only prolong his suffering. There was hopeful news last week when an American doctor was able to examine Charlie and assess the possibility of success undergoing experimental treatment for a rare mitochondrial disorder that threatened his life. However, that hope became resignation this week. Charlie’s parents revealed that his condition has deteriorated too greatly to undergo treatment. They are now negotiating with the hospital about how their son’s life will end.
The shocking announcement came in court on Monday when Charlie’s parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, faced the latest legal hurdle in a five-month battle to make medical decisions for their ill son. British law allows hospitals to override the parents’ wishes when doing so is deemed to be in the best interest of the child. Disturbingly, the hospital, Great Ormand Street, argued that any effort to prolong Charlie’s life and treat his condition was contrary to his best interest. Even though Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, raised more than $1.3 million to transport their ill son to the United States for experimental treatment, the hospital continued to request permission from the court to remove the baby from life-support.
Yates told the court that she and Charlie’s father “only wanted to give him a chance at life.” She also expressed frustration that a “whole lot of time has been wasted” in the months-long legal battle over her son’s care. Tragically, the care that might have helped Charlie may have come too late due to the hospital’s delay. The American doctor willing to treat Charlie rescinded his offer after examining the baby’s condition. Although the treatment might still offer some help to Charlie, the deterioration his body has suffered cannot be undone. The lawyer representing Charlie’s parents said, “Sadly time has run out. … Charlie has waited patiently for treatment. Due to delay, that window of opportunity has been lost.”
Although their journey is not over, and Yates and Gard must now lay to rest their beloved son, they expressed concern for other families facing similar circumstances. Yates told the court, “It’s not too late for others. We owe it to him to not let his life be in vain.” Charlie’s case has demonstrated the necessity of beginning treatment for mitochondrial disorders as quickly as possible in order to prevent the setbacks Charlie suffered. As Yates elaborated, “Our poor boy has just been left to lie there for months without treatment … left with this illness to deteriorate to point of no return.”
Even more importantly, Charlie’s tragic case brought to light the anti-Life ethics at the heart of laws that usurp patients’ rights and undermine the Right to Life. As in Texas, Britain allows hospitals to make decisions of Life and death based on subjective “quality of life” assessments that ignore the dignity of each human Life. The global attention brought by Charlie’s case may mean that his life will lead to the much-needed legal reforms to protect the rights of patients and ensure that one day no family suffers the injustice that Charlie and his family have endured.