Wednesday 23 August 2017

Doctors told to continue life support for terminally-ill baby Charlie Gard as judges examine case

Baby Charlie
Baby Charlie
Doctors can withdraw life-support treatment from the baby with a rare genetic condition against his parents' wishes, a High Court judge has ruled
Chris Gard and Connie Yates with their son Charlie Gard

Brian Farmer

Doctors have been told to continue providing life-support treatment to a terminally ill baby at the centre of a high-profile legal battle for another three weeks to give judges in the European Court of Human Rights time to analyse the case.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates want 10-month-old Charlie Gard, who suffers from a rare genetic condition and has brain damage, to undergo a therapy trial in the US.

Specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, where Charlie is being cared for, say therapy proposed by a doctor in the US is experimental and will not help.

They say life support treatment should stop.

Charlie's parents hope judges in the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France, will come to their aid after losing battles in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in London.

Supreme Court justices in London have ordered Great Ormond Street specialists to keep providing life-support treatment until midnight on July 10.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates with their son Charlie Gard
Chris Gard and Connie Yates with their son Charlie Gard

Three justices had analysed issues relating to continued treatment, pending a decision by European court judges, at a hearing in London early on Monday.

Lady Hale, the Supreme Court's Deputy President, had headed the justices' panel and has outlined conclusions in a written ruling.

Doctors can withdraw life-support treatment from the baby with a rare genetic condition against his parents' wishes, a High Court judge has ruled
Doctors can withdraw life-support treatment from the baby with a rare genetic condition against his parents' wishes, a High Court judge has ruled

She said justices had to consider whether to further "stay" a High Court judge's decision to allow doctors to stop providing life support treatment.

Lady Hale said Mr Justice Francis had decided what was in Charlie's best interests.

Charlie's parents had already been given time to mount challenges in the appeal court and Supreme Court.

"It is hard to over-stress the difficulty which, in this desperately painful case in which the intensity of the parents' feelings is so entirely understandable, the prospect of yet a further stay places upon this court, upon the hospital and, of course overarchingly ... upon Charlie himself," said Lady Hale.

"Mr Justice Francis made his declarations on 11 April 2017.

"Since then there have been numerous successive stays of them.

"Every day since 11 April 2017 the stays have obliged the hospital to take a course which, as is now clear beyond doubt or challenge, is not in the best interests of Charlie.

"The hospital finds itself in an acutely difficult ethical dilemma."

She added: "We three members of this court find ourselves in a situation which, so far as we can recall, we have never previously experienced.

"By granting a stay, even of short duration, we would in some sense be complicit in directing a course of action which is contrary to Charlie's best interests."

But Lady Hale said Charlie's parents also had a right to ask the European court to consider the case and she said justices had decided that treatment should continue.

"With considerable hesitation we direct that the judge's declarations be further stayed for a period of three weeks, namely until midnight on 10/11 July 2017," she said.

"We respectfully urge our colleagues in the European Court of Human Rights to do everything in their power to address the proposed application by then.

"We consider at present that we would feel the gravest difficulty if asked to act yet further against Charlie's best interests by directing an even longer extension of the stay."

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