The case of 11-month-old Charlie Gard took yet another turn on Tuesday when a Vatican hospital offered to take over the terminally ill infant’s care. For months, Charlie has been involved in a life-or-death legal struggle relating to ceasing his life-sustaining care. Charlie Gard suffers from an extremely rare form of mitochondrial depletion syndrome — his is one of just 16 cases known to exist in the world — and as a result is blind, deaf, profoundly brain damaged, and unable to breathe on his own.
As a result of his condition, his doctors at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where Charlie has been receiving treatment since last October, have engaged in a legal battle to remove Charlie from life support to end his suffering and to allow him to “die with dignity.” His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have, on the other hand, been fighting to keep their baby alive by any means necessary.
Yates and Gard turned to crowdfunding to raise money to bring Charlie to the United States for experimental treatment; to date, they have raised over £1.3 million. Despite their efforts, multiple courts in the U.K. have ruled that Charlie should be removed from life support for “compassionate” reasons.
On June 27, the European Court of Human Rights refused to hear Charlie Gard’s parents final appeal for their son’s life. Standing by the decisions of the lowers courts, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that current life-sustaining measures “continue to cause Charlie significant harm.” The court added that in his current state, Charlie Gard is most likely “being exposed to continued pain, suffering and distress,” and that the experimental American treatment had “no prospects of success…would offer no benefit.”
Simply put, even if Charlie Gard’s mitochondrial depletion syndrome can be treated or even cured, the brain damage he has suffered is irreversible and his quality of life can never be improved.
The high court’s ruling paved the way for the doctors at the Great Ormond Street Hospital to legally remove Charlie from life support, and initially, it was reported that end of life-sustaining treatment would come on Friday, June 30. After a tearful public plea from his parents, the hospital agreed to give them a few more days to say goodbye. However, the hospital refused a request to allow Charlie to go home to die.
Over the weekend, the pope stepped into the discussion of Charlie Gard’s end-of-life-care. As CNN reports, the Pontiff called on Sunday for Charlie’s parents to have the opportunity to “accompany and treat their child until the end.”
“The Holy Father is following with affection and emotion the situation of little Charlie Gard and expresses his closeness to his parents. He is praying for them, in the hope that their desire to accompany and care for their own child until the end will be respected.”
On Monday, the case of Charlie Gard began to get some high-level attention on the American side of the Atlantic. POTUS Donald Trump took to social media to offer to help the terminally ill, seemingly doomed baby.
On Tuesday, the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital in Rome also offered to step in and take over Charlie Gard’s medical care. As CNN reports, the offer was reportedly made in an attempt to prevent doctors at the Great Ormond Street Hospital from removing Charlie Gard’s life support and to allow his parents the right to make his end-of-life treatment decisions.
The president of the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital released a statement imploring the director of the London hospital to “to verify whether the health conditions exist to possibly transfer Charlie to our hospital.”
“We know that this is a desperate case and, apparently, there is no effective therapy.”
Charlie Gard’s mother has also reportedly been in contact with the Vatican-owned hospital.
However, as BBC News reports, it appears that the offer of care made by the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital on Tuesday may have been made in vain. U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has reportedly been in contact with Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano. According to Johnson, “legal reasons” make it “impossible” for Charlie Gard to be transferred to the Vatican-owned hospital for care.
According to Johnson, it is only “right that decisions continued to be led by expert medical opinion, supported by the courts,” and that those decisions are being made in accordance with Charlie Gard’s “best interests.”
Despite the fact that it appears Charlie Gard will not be travelling to Rome for continued treatment, the Independent reports that his parents have been in contact with the White House in an attempt to take Donald Trump up on his offer to help the family’s situation.
“The White House has been in talks with Charlie’s family, GOSH [Great Ormond Street Hospital], the UK Government, the Department of Health and the American doctor who wants to treat Charlie. President Trump has a very good understanding of the whole case and he did not make an off the cuff tweet.”
As of publication, neither the Great Ormond Street Hospital nor the parents of Charlie Gard have spoken publicly regarding any timeline that may currently be in place to remove the infant’s life support.
[Featured Image by Connie Yates/GoFundMe]