By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. As we were about to post this story, several outlets updated what transpired today in the courtroom of Justice Nicholas Francis. Without first showing the results to Charlie’s parents, Katie Gollop, the lawyer for the hospital, announced that “the results of their son’s latest brain scans make for ‘sad reading,’” according to the Associated Press, an obvious attempt to influence the Justice’s decision on allowing Charlie to be moved to the United States for experimental therapy and to portray Charlie’s condition in the worst possible light. “Charlie’s father, Chris Gard, yelled ‘Evil!’ at Gollop as his mother, Connie Yates, began to cry.”
As I read through a number of newspaper accounts and blogs and watched as many videos as I could squeeze in today, I was reminded of something that was painfully obvious early in the debate over the fate of Charlie Gard.
It would be difficult to imagine any circumstances, any set of test results, any assurances from Dr. Michio Hirano that his nucleoside therapy may be able to help the 11-month-old son of Connie Yates and Chris Gard that would persuade the hospital to agree that Charlie should be allowed to go to the United States for experimental therapy.
Pick your metaphor: set in cement, etched in stone, the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH)—whose physicians were described by the presiding judge as “the most experienced, most sophisticated doctors that our excellent hospitals have”—knows that Charlie is better off dead.
As NRL News Today readers know, Dr. Hirano was brought in by the parents to examine Charlie this week. Last week he testified via videoconferencing there was an “11% to 56% chance of clinically meaningful improvement” in Charlie’s muscular function with the proposed treatment and that he expected a “small but significant” improvement in Charlie’s brain function.
After examining Charlie and scouring the relevant tests, including brain scans and an EEG, Dr. Hirano was said to have been “locked in discussions” Tuesday with GOSH staff for five and a half hours, according to the Telegraph.
However, “The British doctors caring for Charlie Gard are understood to remain unconvinced by an American neurosurgeon who claimed he could treat the little boy,” the newspaper reported.
No surprise there. Nor that Katie Gollop, GOSH’s attorney, asked for (and received) assurances today from Justice Francis “that parents cannot take Charlie abroad without a court order, despite US residency,” to quote from a tweet from Joshua Rozenberg, described as a “legal expert,” who is following the case closely.
What about Justice Nicholas Francis? I’m not saying the people outside the hospital demonstrating their solidarity with the family should be boisterous. But with Charlie’s life on the line, you would think Justice Francis might be a little less concerned with lecturing “protestors” not to upset other visitors to Great Ormond Street.
He again reiterated his insistence that he will not be swayed by public opinion, tweets, or protestors. Just “new” even “dramatic” evidence, a kind of “Just the facts, madam,” approach, you might say.
But what if Dr. Hirano has concluded that he can help Charlie? Do we feel confident those facts will get a fair hearing—especially when GOSH will dismiss the findings of a renowned physician who serves as Chief of the Neuromuscular Division and Co-Director of the Columbia University Medical Center Muscular Dystrophy Association clinic?
Then there is the lawyer who is representing Charlie’s legal guardian (the whole point here being Charlie’s parents are not presumed to be best qualified to judge what is in their son’s “best interests”)? Heard nothing from or about Victoria Butler-Cole. But her conflict of interest practically screams out for attention.
Charlie’s de factor lawyer is “chairman of Compassion in Dying, a sister organisation to Dignity in Dying which campaigns for a change in the law to make assisted dying legal in the UK. Dignity in Dying used to be called the Voluntary Euthanasia Society,” to quote the Telegraph.
But while the British legal and medical establishments are in lockstep that Charlie should be “allowed to die with dignity,” Charlie still has a worldwide network of supporters; members of Congress working to find a way for the family to quickly come to the United States (if Justice Francis unshackles them); the encouragement of President Trump and Pope Francis whose support for the family made Charlie’s dilemma a cause celebre; and most of all Connie and Chris.
My admiration for this young couple is boundless. Reading Mr. Rozenberg’s tweets this afternoon, I saw this:
“Justice Francis: if Charlie’s parents want to give further oral evidence next week I won’t stop them.”
Pray that they are eloquent and persuasive next Monday. Pray that Justice Francis’s heart is soft and malleable.