US treatment for Charlie Gard would be futile, Supreme Court rules

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Jun 09, 2017
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Charlie Gard suffers from a rare genetic condition and doctors want to turn off his life support


A couple who want to take their sick baby son to the US for treatment have lost a last-ditch appeal in the UK’s highest court.
Chris Gard and Connie Yates want to take Charlie Gard, who suffers from a rare genetic condition and has brain damage, to undergo a therapy trial. Yates broke down in tears and screamed as Supreme Court justices announced their decision and she was led from the court by friends and lawyers.
Specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where the ten-month-old boy is being cared for, said that therapy proposed by a doctor in America was experimental and would not help him. The British doctors said life support treatment should be stopped. Baroness Hale of Richmond, deputy president of the Supreme Court, sitting with Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore and Lord Wilson of Culworth, ruled that Charlie’s life support should continue for 24 hours to give the couple a chance to see if they could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Yates, sitting with Charlie’s father, who clutched a toy monkey belonging to their son, screamed out: “They’re lying.” Outside she collapsed in the corridor, shouting: “How can they do this to us? Why don’t they tell the truth? We have the money. We only want two months.”
In April a High Court judge backed the Great Ormond Street doctors and ruled against a trip to the US. Mr Justice Francis concluded that life support treatment should end and said Charlie should be allowed to die with dignity. Three Court of Appeal judges upheld that ruling in May.
Yesterday the Supreme Court justices were told that without treatment, Charlie’s life expectancy was measured in months. Richard Gordon, QC, of Brick Court Chambers, for the couple, argued that the parents alone were the judges of their child’s best interests and any other approach was an unjustifiable interference with their human rights.
Katie Gollop, QC, of Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, who led Great Ormond Street’s legal team, said the case was sad but not exceptional. The silk said the couple seemed to be suggesting that “parents always know best”. However, she said, the paramount interest in such cases was the welfare of the child.
Giving the court’s decision, Lady Hale said: “As judges, and not as parents, we are concerned only with the legal position. We are bound to accept the factual findings of the trial judge, who has heard the evidence, including the evidence of the doctor in the USA who is prepared to offer treatment, and the judge who found that further treatment would be futile.”
Parents, she added, are “not entitled to insist upon treatment by anyone which is not in their child’s best interests”.

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