A Chance for Charlie: Case to Reconvene at UK High Court on Thursday
Charlie's parents have until Wednesday to produce new evidence in favor of experimental treatment.
Charlie Gard’s parents have until Wednesday to produce new evidence in favor of Charlie receiving experimental treatment.
Mr. Justice Francis at the High Court in London made the announcement Monday after a hearing that The Guardian reported as being “emotional.” Thursday’s hearing, which may go into Friday, could be the sick infant’s final chance at treatment before he is taken off life support.
Justice Francis said it will take “new or dramatic” evidence to overturn his previous decision. Francis ruled in April that Charlie, a British 11-month-old with severe mitochondrial depletion syndrome, should be taken off life support. Charlie is unable to move or breathe on his own, and is currently dependent on a ventilator.
His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, have raised well over $1 million to take Charlie to the U.S. for experimental nucleoside therapy. The therapy has helped other children with similar, but not as severe conditions. Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), where Charlie is staying, have contended that the therapy will not help, but only cause more suffering.
Gard and Yates appealed the High Court’s April decision multiple times. In June, the European Court of Human Rights — their last legal option — left the High Court’s ruling in place, effectively sealing Charlie’s fate.
But last Friday GOSH unexpectedly asked for a new hearing. The hospital cited a letter signed by seven doctors with “fresh evidence about their proposed experimental treatment.”
“We believe, in common with Charlie’s parents, it is right to explore this evidence,” GOSH said in a statement.
Grant Armstrong, an attorney for Charlie’s parents, said Monday a U.S. doctor estimates there is a 10 percent chance of the treatment working.
A Week of Intense International Support
The announcement of a new hearing came as the dramatic climax of a turbulent week for people around the world watching Charlie’s story. Following the European Court’s decision, Charlie had been scheduled to go off life support on June 30, and then again on July 3, but his doctors postponed to give his parents more time.
Over the next several days, both Pope Francis and President Donald Trump publicly expressed support for Charlie’s parents.
The Vatican children’s hospital offered to take over Charlie’s care for free, but British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson refused. A hospital in New York City also offered to admit Charlie or ship the experimental treatment to the U.K., pending FDA approval.
Nevertheless, GOSH’s position — backed by British courts — that Charlie should be removed from his ventilator remained unchanged, until Friday. GOSH said the letter with new evidence came from “two international hospitals and their researchers.” The hospital announced their appeal within 24 hours of receiving the letter, the statement said.
‘We’re Fighting for His Life’
Charlie’s parents stood outside GOSH on Sunday for a press conference in front of supporters, dubbed “Charlie’s Army.”
“We’re a bit more hopeful now,” Gard told Sky News Sunday. “We’ve got seven doctors that believe this medicine can work, they’re specialists in Charlie’s condition. And they’ve all said there’s a better chance than they previously thought.”
“Our love for Charlie is strong, and that’s how we stay strong,” Yates added. “We’re fighting for his life.”
While he’s thankful that Charlie has more time, Gard also communicated frustration that Charlie wasn’t already receiving the therapy.
“We’ve been trying to get this treatment since November,” he said.
During the press conference, Gard and Yates presented a petition with more than 350,000 signatures, asking that Charlie be allowed to go to the U.S. for nucleoside therapy.
U.S. Congressmen: Make Charlie a U.S. Resident
On Friday, two U.S. congressmen announced their intent to help Charlie. Reps. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio and Trent Franks of Arizona said they will introduce a bill to make Charlie and his parents permanent U.S. residents.
“Our bill will support Charlie’s parents’ right to choose what is best for their son, by making Charlie a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. in order for him to receive treatments that could save his life,” a joint statement said.
Congress returns from its recess this week.
Britain’s justice secretary David Lidington says British government cannot intervene for Charlie; it’s up to the courts.