The British judge who oversaw Charlie Gard’s case criticized online supporters of the infant, saying many were “ill informed” about his situation.
The Mirror reports Justice Francis made the comments at a hearing today about the 11-month-old infant.
During the hearing, Charlie’s parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates said they are ending their legal battle to get their son an experimental treatment. They said Charlie’s condition has deteriorated too much, and it now is clear that the treatment will not help.
Charlie, who has a rare mitochondrial disease and brain damage, and his parents received a huge amount of support online from pro-life advocates across the world and leaders like Pope Francis and United States President Donald Trump.
However, the judge was unhappy with supporters on social media, saying many made judgments without fully understanding the evidence.
Here’s more from the report:
“I… made it clear that I could only consider the case on the basis of evidence and not on the basis of partially informed or ill-informed opinion, however eminent the source of that opinion,” [Justice Francis] said on Monday.
“I made it clear that I would always listen carefully to any new and material evidence.”
He added: “The world of social media doubtless has very many benefits but one of its pitfalls, I suggest, is that when cases such as this go viral, the watching world feels entitled to express opinions, whether or not they are evidence-based.”
Mr Justice Francis said there had been an “absurd notion” that Charlie had been a “prisoner”.
The judge said the National Health Service did not imprison Charlie in the hospital or have the power to decide Charlie’s fate.
“In this country, children have rights independent of their parents,” Justice Francis said. In cases like Charlie’s when the parents and hospital disagree about a child’s care, he said, “It is precisely because the hospital does not have power in respect of that child that this hospital makes an application to the court, to an independent judge, for a determination of what is in that child’s best interests.”
Chris Gard and Connie Yates wanted to take their son to the United States for an experimental treatment. They raised more than $1.5 million for his care. His parents said they knew the chance of the experimental treatment working is slim, but they wanted to try anyway for Charlie’s sake.
However, the courts and hospital refused to allow them to transfer their son to another hospital for the treatment. About a month ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the hospital can remove Charlie’s life support and allow him to die. However, the hospital recently agreed to consider new evidence involving Charlie’s condition before taking him off the ventilator.
Earlier today, lawyer Grant Armstrong, who represents Charlie’s parents, said experts confirmed that it is too late to treat Charlie.
The BBC reports Armstrong “told the presiding judge Mr Justice Francis that US neurologist Dr Michio Hirano had said he was no longer willing to offer the baby experimental therapy after he saw the results of a new MRI scan last week.”
“This case is now about time,” Armstrong continued. “Sadly time has run out. … Charlie has waited patiently for treatment. Due to delay, that window of opportunity has been lost.”
Hirano previously said Charlie had an 11 percent to 56 percent chance of benefiting from the experimental treatment. He and a group of doctors examined Charlie last week and gave their expert opinions to the judge.
Questions remain about whether Charlie could have benefited from the experimental treatment, had it not been delayed for months during the legal battle between Charlie’s parents and the hospital. The court battle began in March.
Despite all of his problems, Charlie’s parents – and millions like them – believe that Charlie is a valuable, living human being who should be given a chance to live.