'Time has run out' to save baby Charlie Gard, parents say as they end legal fight

Charlie Gard's parents drop legal fight

The parents of Charlie Gard, whose battle to get their critically ill baby experimental treatment stirred international sympathy and controversy, have dropped their legal effort.

London: The parents of terminally ill baby Charlie Gard have ended their legal fight against a hospital's decision to take him off life support.

And a judge has said it is in the baby's best interests he now be allowed to die.

"This is one of the hardest things that we will ever have to say and we are about to do the hardest thing that we'll ever have to do – which is to let our beautiful little Charlie go," mother Connie Yates said on Monday.

Connie Yates and Chris Gard, parents of critically ill baby Charlie, arrive at the High Court in London.
Connie Yates and Chris Gard, parents of critically ill baby Charlie, arrive at the High Court in London. Photo: AP

She said the 11-month-old, whose case has attracted worldwide attention including from the Pope and US President Donald Trump, would not live to see his first birthday.

Ms Yates said Charlie would have had a real chance of getting better if he had received treatment earlier.

But the hospital denied this, saying the child had suffered irreversible brain damage from seizures that began last year.

"Time has run out for Charlie," the parents' lawyer Grant Armstrong told England's High Court in London on Monday. "It is too late. The damage has been done … it is no longer in Charlie's best interests to pursue this course of treatment."

Tests last week confirmed "the parents' worst nightmare", Mr Armstrong said. Charlie will soon be moved from life support into palliative care.

"Dark days lie ahead for [Charlie's] parents," Mr Armstrong said. "They wish to treasure their remaining time with Charlie, however short."

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Ms Yates, in a statement she read to the court and Chris Gard read again outside, said their child had a "real, genuine chance at life ... the potential to be a normal healthy little boy" if he had been treated earlier.

"A whole lot of time has been wasted ... our poor boy has been left to lie in hospital for months without treatment, whilst lengthy court battles have been fought," she said. "Charlie has been left with his illness to deteriorate devastatingly to the point of no return.

"We will now have to live with the what-ifs that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.

Charlie Gard at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
Charlie Gard at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. Photo: Gard Family/AP

"We have decided that it's no longer in Charlie's best interests to pursue treatment and we will let our son go and be with the angels.

"His spirit will live on for eternity ... to Charlie we say we love you so much ... we are so sorry that we couldn't save you. Sweet dreams baby, sleep tight our beautiful little boy."

The parents had raised £1.3 million ($2.1 million) to get Charlie to the US for an experimental treatment they believed could have helped their child. Two weeks ago an expert told the court there was a 10 per cent chance it would work.

Supporters of Charlie Gard hold placards outside the court in London.
Supporters of Charlie Gard hold placards outside the court in London. Photo: AP

The couple took their fight through English and European courts, trying to get permission to take their son to America.

"[The parents] believe they ought to have been trusted with the decision," Mr Armstrong told the court. "Charlie has waited patiently for his right to receive treatment. Due to the delay that chance has been lost."

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) judged that treatment would have been futile and Charlie should be allowed to die with dignity.

Charlie has a rare, fatal genetic disorder and, scans last week again confirmed, severe brain damage. In April the High Court ruled he should be allowed to die. The hospital brought the case back to court after the parents claimed there was new evidence about possible treatment.

But the tests last week, including an examination by the American specialist who had offered the treatment, confirmed that Charlie had extensive and irreversible damage to his body and brain, the court was told.

The parents were told the test results, which were reviewed by several experts, on Friday.

GOSH's representative in court said "the hearts of hospital and staff go out to Charlie and his father and his mother".

In a "position statement" handed to the court, GOSH said "the agony, desolation and bravery of [the parents'] decision command GOSH's utmost respect".

"While GOSH has striven to work with them throughout, Charlie's needs have taken priority.

"Charlie's parents have fought long and hard for what they have been led to believe was a treatment that would give him a chance to be the Charlie he was before the effects of his illness became apparent.

"They feel now, and perhaps will feel for some long time to come, that if only GOSH had treated Charlie months ago, they would have been spared the impossible decision they make now."

But from the moment of his diagnosis, Charlie's prognosis was "known to be bleak", the hospital said.

The proposed experimental treatment, called NBT, had never been tried on any human or animal with Charlie's condition, they said.

Seizures that began before Christmas caused irreversible neurological damage and "any chance that NBT might have had of benefiting Charlie had departed", leading to the decision in February to withdraw life support.

"All aspects of the clinical picture and all of Charlie's observations indicated that his brain was irreversibly damaged and that NBT was futile," the hospital said.

"NBT may well assist others in the future, [but] it cannot and could not have assisted Charlie."

High Court Judge Sir Nicholas Francis said "no parent could have done more for their child [and] none of us can begin to understand their agony", before confirming he would not change the orders he made in April.

"The parents now have to face the reality that it is in Charlie's best interests to die."

He said the court had been guided by the principle that the child's welfare was its paramount consideration.

Justice Francis also paid tribute to the medical experts and hospital staff involved in the case, saying it was a "disgrace" that they had been subjected to abuse.

On the weekend the hospital said there had been a "disgraceful tide of hostility" aimed at their staff, who had been abused in the street and online.

Thousands of abusive messages and even death threats had been sent to doctors and nurses at GOSH, and police were called in to find the culprits.