Charlie Gard: Judge rules doctors can withdraw life support from baby with rare genetic condition

Parents had raised £1.2 million to take their sick son to the US for experimental treatment

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The Independent Online

Doctors can withdraw life support from a baby with a rare genetic condition against his parents’ wishes, a high court judge has ruled.

The parents of Charlie Gard had pleaded to be able to take their son to the US for experimental treatment, saying he “deserves a chance”.

But medical staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London said it was kinder for the brain damaged eight-month-old to be given end-of-life care.

The decision announced by Nicholas Francis, who analysed evidence over three days and visited the child in hospital, elicited a scream of “no” in the courtroom.

Connie Yates and Chris Gard, both in their early 30s, told Mr Justice Francis their son “deserves a chance” to be taken to the US.

They had raised £1.2m for the journey and treatment through a crowdfunding campaign that received more than 80,000 donations.

Charlie, who was born on 4 August 2016, has a form of mitochondrial disease, a condition that causes progressive muscle weakness.

A specialist from Great Ormond Street said Charlie’s condition had “deteriorated hugely” since he came to the children’s hospital.

“The disease has affected his brain to the extent that he is completely ventilator-dependent,” said the doctor. “This situation is not a tolerable one to leave a child in.”

Charlie’s parents had said he experienced pleasure and was not in pain, and should get treatment to see whether his condition could be improved.

Mr Gard said he believed a treatment trial proposed by US doctors could work, saying: “If there is no improvement we will let him go.”

Ms Yates also asked for Charlie to be “given the chance” to try the pioneering treatment. “If I thought for a moment that Charlie was in pain or suffering I would not fight for that life to be extended,” she said.

Before the ruling, the couple said they would use the money to create a charity for the rare disease Charlie is suffering from if they were not able to keep him alive.

Mr Justice Francis said: “I find it is in Charlie’s best interests that I accede to these applications and rule that Great Ormond Street may lawfully withdraw all treatment save for palliative care to permit Charlie to die with dignity.

“I want to thank the team of experts and carers at Great Ormond Street and others who cannot be named, for the extraordinary care that they have provided to this family.”

He thanked Ms Yates and Mr Gard “for their brave and dignified campaign” but said he had reached his decision “with the heaviest of hearts, but with complete conviction for Charlie’s best interests”.

In a statement, the parents said: “The support and phenomenal kindness of countless people has been a source of strength.”