By Kathy Ostrowski, Policy & Research Director, Kansans for Life
In another last-minute, heart-stopping announcement, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Tuesday that 10-month-old Charlie Gard’s life-support must be continued until midnight Monday, June 19. The court issued a statement that such aid is needed to prevent “imminent risk of irreparable harm.”
An ECHR statement said a panel of seven judges will examine the appeal by Charlie’s parents. Their judgment will be binding on the UK government. Charlie is currently on a respirator in London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), suffering from a rare and progressively debilitating mitochondrial depletion syndrome first detected in October of 2016.
Last week, the Strasbourg, France-based court made the initial interim life-saving ruling, pending a full legal application by the lawyers for Charlie’s parents, Connie and Chris Gard. The ECHR press release indicated this court “grants such requests only on an exceptional basis.” Charlie’s life-support had been scheduled to be turned off Tuesday.
The ECHR is an international court of 47 member nations, with each country having one judge, and abiding by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.
Since January, Connie and Chris have battled –with world-wide public support and $1.5 million funds pledged– to have their son released from GOSH to travel to the U.S. for experimental therapy.
Once there, Charlie could receive promising, non-invasive nucleoside bypass treatment, though without any certain guarantee of being cured. Court documents have not released the name of the physician or facility associated with the therapy.
Charlie’s parents begged the courts at the local and appellate levels to force GOSH to release him. However two lower courts, in April and again in May, sided with the hospital’s opinion that Charlie just be let to “die with dignity,” rather than acquiescing to parental authority.
On appeal at the end of May, the UK Supreme Court sided with GOSH, but granted extra days for Charlie’s life–support until the matter could be filed for review by the ECHR. In what was termed an “extraordinary” interim action by that court, life-support was maintained until today and now has been further extended.
In anticipation of today’s ECHR ruling, British media showed the Gard family in a picnic setting on the hospital roof. Charlie’s eyes were open.
Connie posted the “eyes-open” close-up image of Charlie on Facebook in rebuttal to the UK Supreme Court narrative last week that described her son as “not consistently able to open his eyes enough to be able to see. Indeed, this leads to the difficulty that his brain is failing to learn to see.”
This was the information that was read aloud by Lady Justice Hale as the defense for keeping Charlie hostage in London and removing his respirator.
Connie is heard on the official audio tape shouting “you’re lying!” five times at that end of the reading of that ominous ruling, before lawyers escorted her out.
How the ECHR will rule is anyone’s guess at this point, but the fact that it granted the extraordinary step of protecting Charlie and taking a closer look at the UK court decisions is hopeful.
And it is the personal motto of Charlie’s parents that, “Where there’s Life, there’s Hope.”