Parents lose UK Supreme Court fight to save Charlie Gard’s life

By Kathy Ostrowski, Policy & Research Director, Kansans for Life

Charlie Gard

Charlie Gard

The British Supreme Court delivered devastating news today: they will not hold an emergency hearing to overturn a death verdict for baby Charlie Gard.

The top court reaffirmed lower court rulings from April and May that Charlie’s parents cannot remove him from a London hospital, and that life-sustaining measures be stopped so the ten month old boy might “die with dignity.”

BBC legal commentator, Joshua Rozenberg, tweeted that GOSH must not withdraw life-support before 5pm Friday to allow time to make an appeal to European Court of Human Rights.

Rozenberg reported that Lady Hale, one of three Supreme Court justices reviewing Charlie’s legal appeal this past week, “says parents can’t insist on treatment that’s not in child’s interests.”

The Independent reported that Charlie’s mother “broke down in tears, shouting: ‘How could they do this to us?’ as she was led from the court by lawyers.

Charlie is being ravaged by a rare, genetically-caused disease (mitochondrial depletion syndrome), detected when he was 2 months old. An alternative “nucleoside bypass” oral therapy is on trial in the U.S. Charlie’s parents decided they wanted that option.

In a valiant attempt to be able to leave the country with Charlie, his parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have battled three courts and the famed Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) where Charlie is on a ventilator,

An MRI in January when the baby was five months old detected no structural brain damage. But in February GOSH wanted Charlie’s life support to end and, moreover, prohibited his removal from the hospital.

“FUTILITY POLICY” BEATS PARENTS’ RIGHTS

Social media proves that the public is outraged at the hubris of the courts in this matter.

This is the same public that raised $1.5 million dollars in a GoFundMe campaign created by Charlie’s parents to fly him overseas for treatment.

In the April Court of Appeal ruling, published here, Charlie was referred to as having “an awful existence.” The Court opined, “[P]arents may lose their objectivity and be willing to try anything” and insisted that the new bypass therapy was “not viable.”

The Court of Appeal rejected the various arguments of Charlie’s lead attorney, Richard Gordon, that the court had no standing to uphold GOSH against parental authority because Charlie was under no threat of “significant harm” from his parents.

The Court nonetheless insists that it is their duty to make a “best interests” assessment which included whether:

  • the treatment causes pain,
  • the medical condition itself is a severe burden, and
  • it is Impossible to derive benefit from continued life.

“Benefit from continued life” and “severe burden” are undefined terms yet they are the lynchpin of the claim the courts are using to end Charlie’s life. His parents do not believe he is in pain, and they have promised not to inflict any. Their rational medical decision has been crushed by the courts’ haughty claim to be the ultimate arbiter of the value in “continued life.”

Back in 2014, another British hospital had forbidden parents from taking the child out of hospital for a new treatment (read more here.) Britain actually arrested (and later released) the parents who took their ailing child out of the country for a successful cancer therapy that Britain is only now this year beginning to offer.

The therapy worked, young Ashya King is alive and well, yet British courts have not learned their lesson.

And Charlie Gard and his parents are paying the ultimate price.

Thousands are anxiously following this drama and praying that the European Court of Human Rights will play a heroic part in it. Stay tuned.