ONDON — The parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard dropped their legal bid Monday to send him to the United States for experimental treatment after new medical tests showed that the window of opportunity to help him had closed.
Chris Gard and Connie Yates wept as they withdrew their appeal during a London High Court hearing, signaling the end of a legal saga that had stretched for months. The couple’s attorney, Grant Armstrong, said recent medical tests on 11-month-old Charlie showed the baby has irreversible muscular damage, and the new treatment wouldn’t help.
“It’s too late for Charlie,” Armstrong said. “The damage has been done.”
Armstrong said the news had left Charlie’s parents extremely distressed and they now “wish to spend the maximum amount of time they have left with Charlie.”
Charlie has a rare genetic condition, and his parents wanted him to receive an experimental treatment in the U.S.
Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London had argued that the treatment wouldn’t help and could cause the child pain, so they challenged the parent’s wish. The hospital wanted to switch off his life support and allow Charlie to die peacefully.
The case won international attention after Charlie’s parents received support from Pope Francis, U.S. President Donald Trump and some U.S. lawmakers. Some U.S.-based activists also travelled to London to support Charlie’s parents.
Some commentators have portrayed the case as a clash between a family and the state, and some U.S. conservatives have used it to criticize Britain’s state-funded health care system — even though the case has never been about money.
Judge Nicholas Francis said the crux of the matter was that “in this country, children have rights independent of their parents.” While parents usually decide what is best for their children, in some cases hospitals and parents disagree, he said.
The judge condemned the abuse and threats directed at the hospital, doctors and nurses treating Charlie, but stressed these had nothing to do with the boy’s parents.
The judge had scheduled a two-day hearing to consider fresh evidence after Dr. Michio Hirano, an American neurology expert from Columbia Medical Center in New York, came to London to examine the child. But Armstrong said nothing further could be done and that it was “worthy of a Greek tragedy” that they had to withdraw their appeal just as they were about to present new evidence to the court.
The judge paid tribute to the infant’s parents, saying it was impossible to comprehend the agony they faced.
“No parent could have done more for their child,” he said.
— Caroline Spiezio