A British judge decided Tuesday to allow a London hospital to remove a baby boy’s life support, despite his parents’ objections.
The baby, Charlie Gard, was diagnosed with an extremely rare disease called mitochondrial depletion syndrome a few months after he was born. The disease makes his organs and muscles very weak, and he uses a ventilator to breath and feeding tube to receive sustenance.
The hospital in London, England that has been caring for him recently asked a judge to allow doctors to remove Charlie’s life support without his parents’ permission, the Daily Mail reported in March.
On Tuesday, High Court Justice Francis gave the hospital permission to do so, arguing that removing Charlie’s life support and allowing him to die is in his best interest, according to the Catholic News Agency.
His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have been fighting the hospital’s plan, and trying to raise money for an experimental treatment in America that could help their son.
The BBC reports Charlie’s family was visibly distressed in the courtroom when the judge read his decision Tuesday, and his father, Chris Gard, yelled “no” and began crying.
The family said they are considering an appeal, and spending as much time as they can with Charlie. Hospital leaders said they will not remove Charlie’s life support until the family makes a final decision about appealing, according to the report.
In his decision, Justice Francis responded to questions about why the parents should not be allowed to make this decision for their son.
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“The answer is that, although the parents have parental responsibility, overriding control is vested in the court exercising its independent and objective judgment in the child’s best interests,” he wrote. “The Great Ormond Street Hospital has made an application and it is my duty to rule on it, given that the parents and the hospital cannot agree on the best way forward.”
Based on experts’ testimony, the judge wrote that the experimental therapy will not reverse the brain damage that Charlie has suffered.
“I dare say that medical science may benefit, objectively, from the experiment, but experimentation cannot be in Charlie’s best interests unless there is a prospect of benefit for him,” Justice Francis wrote. “It is with the heaviest of hearts, but with complete conviction for Charlie’s best interests, that … I accede to these applications and rule that [the hospital] may lawfully withdraw all treatment save for palliative care to permit Charlie to die with dignity.”
The family recently raised more than $1 million to bring Charlie to the U.S. for a pioneer medical treatment. Find the online fundraiser here. However, it is unclear if this still is a possibility for Charlie.
His mother and father have been by his hospital bed constantly, hoping to spend as much time with them as they can, according to the reports.
“We know we may not have much time left. In those precious moments in that hospital room we are a family together, a team,” Yates said, previously. “If we change his nappy, he moves his arms. Occasionally, he manages to open his eyes. It is such a struggle because this wretched disease affects every part of the body – it even makes his eyelids weak.
“But if we lock eyes we can see him trying to open them wider. And we feel that our presence calms Charlie,” she continued. “It’s not much, but every little flicker convinces us that we, his Mummy and Daddy, are doing the right thing to not give up on him.”
American families have faced similar legal battles. In 2016, LifeNews covered the cases of two toddlers whose parents fought to keep them on life support after suffering brain damage.
One was Israel Stinson, a 2-year-old from California who suffered brain damage after an asthma attack. His family said he responded to his mother’s voice, and several medical experts who examined him said he was not brain dead. However, a judge’s order eventually allowed a hospital to remove his life support and he died shortly afterward.
The other was Mirranda Grace Lawson, a 2-year-old from Virginia whose parents were in the midst of a legal battle to keep her on life support when she died.