Charlie Gard, the 10-month-old baby in the United Kingdom who is afflicted with a rare mitochondrial disease, will have his life support withdrawn after his parents lost their appeal to transport their son to the United States for an experimental treatment.
Now, Pope Francis is weighing in on their side — offering his prayers for Gard, and asking that his parents’ wishes be respected.
“The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the story of Charlie Gard and expresses his own closeness to his parents,” read a July 2 statement issued by Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.
“He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”
Pope Francis also used his Twitter account to send a clear pro-life message to the world.
To defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 30, 2017
When his parents asked to take their son home to die, their request was denied. Gard’s life support machines were to be turned off Friday, but the courts allowed the parents to have more time with their child before his death.
“Baby Charlie,” as he came to be known, cannot breathe on his own, has seizures, and suffered severe brain damage as a result of his disease. In March, doctors told Charlie’s parents that they did not believe that they could do anything further to treat their son, and recommended that they withdraw life support. Despite the grim diagnosis, Charlie’s parents raised over $1 million to move him to the U.S. for treatment, but the European Court of Human Rights ruled against them on Wednesday and will not permit them to treat their son.
The court said that they did not believe that the experimental treatment in the U.S. would benefit Charlie, and that it would cause him “significant harm.”
“The domestic courts had concluded, on the basis of extensive, high-quality expert evidence, that it was most likely Charlie was being exposed to continued pain, suffering and distress and that undergoing experimental treatment with no prospects of success would offer no benefit, and continue to cause him significant harm.”
On Facebook, Charlie’s parents said that they were “heartbroken” and that they were aghast that they were not permitted to choose when or where their son would die. Previously, they have said that they would like their son to pass away at home, not in a hospital. They are not permitted to take him home, and they say that the hospital is “rushing” to turn off the ventilator.
Charlie entered Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in October and was diagnosed as suffering from a form of mitochondrial disease that causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage. Subsequently his parents discovered that 18 people in the United States had been treated with an oral medication of naturally occurring compounds to remedy this rare condition. Reports have not identified the doctor who initially agreed to treat Charlie, but it was noted that his parents were aware that no cure was promised.
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The main argument offered by the hospital to countermand parental authority was to protect Charlie’s “best interests.” However, attorneys for Charlie’s parents argued that the hospital was basically holding Charlie hostage, violating several articles under the European Convention on Human Rights, including the rights to life, liberty and family privacy.
Terri Schiavo’s brother Bobby Schindler has weighed in on the situation.
“Charlie Gard’s life is more valuable than British and European bureaucrats realize,” explains Bobby Schindler, President of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network.
“The central issue of the Charlie Gard struggle,” continues Bobby Schindler, “is not about rationing, limited resources, or even life support. At issue is whether universal healthcare means that bureaucrats and judges will determine appropriate treatment, or whether parents like Charlie’s with the energy, finances, and physicians to care for their child will be allowed to do so.”
The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network has served more than 2,500 medically vulnerable patients and families. The Network been instrumental in similar parental rights cases, particularly the case of Jahi McMath who is now home with her family, and baby Joseph Maraachli who was ultimately allowed to die peacefully in his sleep from natural causes at home, surrounded by loved ones.
Schindler added: “We don’t need judges posing as anguished moral philosophers, weighing what makes a life worth living. We simply need them to rule on whether mothers and fathers have an inalienable right to care for their own children. Are we better off in a society where government officials are encouraged literally to separate loved ones from each other? Is it better for Charlie Gard to live and die at home with his family, or in a state institution?”