The hospital caring for Charlie Gard said it has asked England's High Court to rehear his case after researchers at two hospitals shared new evidence about an experimental therapy for his condition.
Charlie has a rare genetic condition and resulting brain damage that has robbed him of the ability to see, hear, move or breathe on his own, and doctors in Britain have concluded that nothing more can be done for him. The 11-month-old's parents have been pleading for the right to try a potential treatment, but Great Ormond Street Hospital in London said its hands were tied by recent court rulings.
The rulings determined it was in Charlie's best interest to remove him from life support to prevent him from suffering.
But Great Ormond Street Hospital said in a statement Friday that “in light of claims of new evidence relating to potential treatment,” it has applied for a new court hearing in Charlie's case.
“We believe, in common with Charlie’s parents, it is right to explore this evidence,” the hospital said in the statement.
Charlie's mother, Connie Yates, said Friday morning on “Good Morning Britain” that doctors have told her there is about a 10 percent chance the experimental therapy could work for Charlie.
“So I think that's a good enough chance to take,” she said. “In some sense, people may say that's a small chance, but when it comes to medicine, that's quite a big chance. Because sometimes you'll do chemotherapy and there's only a 2 percent chance of it working but you still try, because everybody wants to live, you know? The majority of them.”
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) July 7, 2017
Yates said she and Charlie's father, Chris Gard, would not let their son suffer.
“We are not bad parents, we are there for him all the time. We are completely devoted to him, and he's not in pain and suffering, and I promise everyone I would not sit there and watch my son in pain and suffering, I couldn't do it,” she said on “Good Morning Britain.”
In a British court ruling in April, Justice Nicholas Francis of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice wrote that there was “unanimity among the experts” that the experimental therapy Charlie's parents wanted to try could not repair structural brain damage and noted that the treatment had never even been tested on mice.
The court ruled that withdrawing life support was in Charlie's best interest.
The case was taken to the European Court of Human Rights, which last week declined to hear the matter, upholding previous court rulings.
London's Great Ormond Street Hospital said in the statement Friday that again, “It will be for the High Court to make its judgment on the facts.”
“Charlie’s condition is exceptionally rare, with catastrophic and irreversible brain damage,” the statement read. “Our doctors have explored every medical treatment, including experimental nucleoside therapies. Independent medical experts agreed with our clinical team that this treatment would be unjustified. Not only that, but they said it would be futile and would prolong Charlie’s suffering. This is not an issue about money or resources, but absolutely about what is right for Charlie.
“Our view has not changed. We believe it is right to seek the High Court’s view in light of the claimed new evidence.”
The move comes amid an international life-support controversy that has drawn sympathy and support from Pope Francis and President Trump, with hospitals in Rome and New York offering to take Charlie.
New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center said late Thursday that it would admit and evaluate Charlie “provided that arrangements are made to safely transfer him to our facility, legal hurdles are cleared, and we receive emergency approval from the FDA for an experimental treatment as appropriate,” according to a statement to The Washington Post.
The U.S. hospital said another option could be to ship an experimental drug to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Charlie is being treated. The American hospital said it would provide instructions on administering the drug, provided the FDA gives clearance.
Great Ormond planned to disconnect Charlie from life support and, earlier this week, declined a request by the Vatican's children's hospital to move the boy to Rome.
A spokesman for the Vatican's Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital told The Post on Wednesday that the British hospital turned down the offer, citing legal reasons, but added that officials were working on a solution.
Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital President Mariella Enoc said doctors who study rare diseases at the Vatican hospital were in contact with international experts, including in the United States, “to develop a protocol for experimental treatment for Charlie.”
The pope said last week on Twitter that “to defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.”
Tension mounted late last week after Charlie's parents appeared in a tearful video statement, saying doctors were planning to remove Charlie from life support June 30 at the London children's hospital.
The family said the hospital decided to postpone the termination of care.
“Charlie was going to die and … we were absolutely devastated,” Yates said Friday on “Good Morning Britain,” according to BBC News. “We had no control over it, the way it was done.”
When the White House “got involved,” she said, “that changed things.”
Trump tweeted Monday that the United States “would be delighted to” help. White House spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré said the president was seeking to help a family in a “heartbreaking situation” and that members of the administration had spoken to the family in calls facilitated by the British government.
That day, the White House mentioned — but did not name — an American hospital that had offered to admit Charlie. It is unclear whether that hospital was New York-Presbyterian.
Charlie's mother told the Daily Mail the support has given them hope.
“They are traditional men who believe in the family,” she said of Trump and the pope. “They believe in our case and understand why we believe it is right to continue fighting so hard to save Charlie.”
But one medical expert says such hope could do more harm than good.
British professor Robert Winston, a well-known fertility expert, said, “These interferences from the Vatican and from Donald Trump seem to me to be extremely unhelpful and very cruel, actually,” according to the Daily Mail.
He said Wednesday on “Good Morning Britain” that he does not believe the doctors in London are trying to assert authority but rather “they're trying to take an ethical decision based on the judgment of what they know and, ultimately, I think we have to respect what their knowledge is.” He added, “If they say that this mutation is so severe that really this is something which would be even more cruel to have this child travel, that is something which I think one really has to respect.”
He added, however, that the parents should be allowed to make that decision.
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) July 5, 2017
Charlie was born in August with a rare genetic condition called infantile-onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, or MDDS, according to court records.
Weeks after birth, Charlie was struggling to hold up his head and was not gaining weight. At the 2-month mark, he had become lethargic, and his breathing had become shallow, court records show.
The child was transported to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he has remained since. Earlier this year, doctors concluded that nothing more could be done for him.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported Monday that officials at Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital planned to ask their counterparts in London whether Charlie could be moved from that facility to Rome.
“We know that it is a desperate case and that there are no effective therapies,” Enoc, president of the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, said at the time. “We are close to the parents in prayer and, if this is their desire, willing to take their child, for the time he has left to live.”
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said in a statement that Francis has called for Charlie’s parents to be able to care for him until his death.
“The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the case of little Charlie Gard and expresses his own closeness to his parents,” the statement read, according to Vatican Radio. “For them he prays, hoping that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end is not ignored.”
This post, originally published July 6, has been updated.