Parents Of Terminally Ill British Infant Drop Legal Battle

Jul 24, 2017
Originally published on July 24, 2017 9:00 pm
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The parents of a terminally ill British infant have ended their legal battle to bring him to the U.S. for experimental treatment. The case of Charlie Gard has divided Britain over a law that allows doctors to override the wishes of parents in a child's treatment if the doctors believe it's in the child's best interest. NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports from London.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Charlie is just two weeks shy of his first birthday. He suffers from a rare genetic disorder that has left him brain damaged and on life support. His father, Chris Gard, broke down while speaking to reporters today outside Britain's High Court.

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CHRIS GARD: Despite the way that our beautiful son has been spoken about sometimes, as if he is not worthy of a chance at life, our son is an absolute warrior and we could not be prouder of him.

KAKISSIS: Chris Gard and Charlie's mother, Connie Yates, had been fighting for months to discharge their son from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. They'd raised thousands of dollars through crowdfunding to take him to the United States for experimental therapy that has not yet undergone clinical trials. They believed the therapy would improve his life, but his doctor said the treatment would not help and might even make him suffer.

RAANAN GILLON: They can reasonably expect that the child is experiencing some sort of pain and distress.

KAKISSIS: That's Raanan Gillon, an emeritus professor of medical ethics at Imperial College in London.

GILLON: When the doctors don't agree with the parents about the best interests, they go to court. And the court has to decide on the basis of what's in the best interests of the child and what to do about it.

KAKISSIS: London's highest court had sided with Charlie's doctors. A judge was about to rule on a new hearing based on evidence from a Columbia University neurologist who carries out the experimental therapy Charlie's parents were seeking. But Chris Gard said that therapy would come too late to do his son any good.

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GARD: To Charlie, we say mommy and daddy, we love you so much. We always have and we always will. And we are so sorry that we couldn't save you.

KAKISSIS: Charlie's parents are now talking to his doctors about how the baby should be allowed to die. Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.