Supporters of terminally-ill 10-month-old Charlie Gard, otherwise known as "Charlie's Army," gathered at Buckingham Palace in central London on Sunday. The group was protesting Charlie Gard's impending removal from life support, which could happen at any time and which goes against the wishes of the baby's parents.
Carrying signs and banners, including one that read "It's Murder," the crowd chanted their support for little Charlie, who suffers from one of only 16 cases of mitochondrial depletion syndrome known to exist worldwide. While he was born seemingly "perfectly healthy," by the time he was 8-weeks-old, Charlie Gard's mother Connie Yates noticed that he seemed "floppier" than other babies his age.
She took the baby to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he was diagnosed and has remained ever since. Since his diagnosis, Charlie's condition has steadily worsened. He can no longer see, hear or breathe on his own and is profoundly and irreversibly brain damaged. Because of the nature of his condition, doctors determined the kindest course of treatment would be to remove the suffering infant from life support. According to medical professionals, Charlie Gard is "being exposed to continued pain, suffering and distress." What's more, the experimental American treatment his parents raised roughly £1.3m million for would have "no prospects of success…would offer no benefit."
That's because even if doctors can cure Charlie Gard's mitochondrial depletion syndrome, the brain damage he has already suffered is irreversible.Charlie Gard's parents, however, have adamantly and vehemently fought against that decision, taking their case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights after an April decision by the Family Division of the High Court in London that would have allowed Charlie Gard's doctors to remove him from life support. On June 27, Charlie's parents learned that the European court had denied their final appeal, clearing the way for Charlie Gard to be removed from life support and to be allowed to die with dignity.
Initially, representatives from Great Ormond Street Hospital said that they were in a hurry to change Charlie's treatment plan (i.e., remove his ventilator and other life-sustaining treatment). However, it was later reported that the hospital had planned to end Charlie Gard's life support on Friday. After a desperate appeal from the baby's parents to allow them "one final weekend" with their son, the removal of life support was delayed.Sunday's protest, which began at Buckingham Palace and was quickly moved by police to outside Downing Street, was organized by 17-year-old Alex Nagel, a London resident. According to the young advocate, he learned of Charlie Gard's situation on social media and wanted to do something to help the 10-month-old and his parents. As Daily Mail reports, the organizer was thrilled to see over 100 people turn out to support Charlie and show the terminally ill baby some love.
"There were over 100 people, it was very loud. It was amazing to see everyone come together. We wanted to support Charlie and show him love...I'm only 17 - but when I grow up one day, when I have children, I would want anyone to support me the way I'm supporting them."Sunday's event was organized with only one day's planning.
Since last week's decision by the European Court of Human Rights to allow the hospital to remove Charlie Gard from life support, his parents have come forward to claim that the Great Ormond Street Hospital is refusing to grant their final wish for their son: to bring him home to die. Apparently noting that fact, Sunday's demonstrators chanted phrases such as "save Charlie Gard" and "release Charlie Gard."
Even the Pope has spoken out about the tragic plight of Charlie Gard and his family, expressing his hope that his parents will be allowed to care for him "until the end."
"The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the affair of little Charlie Gard and expresses his closeness to his parents. He prays for them, hoping that their desire to accompany and care for their child until the end is not disregarded."At this point, the Great Ormond Street Hospital has given no indication that it has been persuaded by Sunday's demonstration to change its plans regarding Charlie Gard and the removal of his life support. It is unclear when the hospital intends to follow through with plans to end life-sustaining measures.
[Featured Image by Connie Yates/GoFundMe]