There were a few rough edges Thursday in a U.K. courtroom, including one moment when Charlie Gard’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, stormed out of the hearing at which a judge was examining evidence regarding whether they would be allowed to take their child out of the country for treatment.
But they returned a short time later and the judge eventually asked an American doctor, testifying via long-distance, whether he would be available and willing to come to the U.K. to begin treatments on Charlie.
Charlie’s parents had worked non-stop since Monday to prepare to argue that the judge should allow them to take their child out of the country.
Charlie suffers from a rare genetic mutation of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. He reportedly has brain damage, is blind and deaf, and needs a ventilator to breathe.
Britain’s High Court has ruled that Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Charlie is being treated, should take him off life support and let him die.
The parents have raised more than $1.8 million to bring Charlie either to the U.S. or to Rome for treatment, but the British government has denied them permission even to take Charlie out of the country using their own money.
At the hearing, AP reported, Justice Francis said he understood the parents’ concerns.
“I understand you walking out because it is a desperate situation,” he said.
The American doctor who testified remotely on Charlie’s behalf gave the infant at least a 10 percent chance of meaningful success. This figure is higher than previously estimated, when 10 percent was the highest chance Charlie had at success.
The doctor, whose name and institution have been withheld by court order, testified that there are no signs of brain damage in Charlie, and that experimental nucleoside therapy has made significant advances in the months since Charlie’s case was first argued.
He believes that there is a rational basis for believing that Charlie could see improvement in his brain cells due to this treatment.
The doctor also said he has seen no evidence that Charlie is in pain, which has been one of the hospital’s main arguments for taking him off life support.
When asked by the judge if he would come to London to treat Charlie personally if the judge adjourned the court for a few days, the doctor said yes. If this were to happen, and Charlie were to show improvement, the chances that the judge would allow him to travel abroad for treatment would improve dramatically.
The disagreement between the judge and the parents came when the judge claimed the parents sought to prolong Charlie’s life in his current state, rather than seeking improvement.
Yates interrupted Francis mid-statement with, “I never said that.”
“We said he’s not in suffering and in pain. If he was, we wouldn’t be up here fighting for that,” Yates added, according to an Associated Press report.
The judge then argued, claiming one of them had said they were seeking only to prolong Charlie’s current state of living, but both parents stormed out of the court.
Charlie’s parents and legal representation contest the court’s claim that Charlie is suffering, has structural brain damage, and his condition cannot be improved. The court claims that he should be taken off life support and offered no treatment.
Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, was present at Charlie’s hearing. She said claims of brain damage are unproven.
Foster said “the medical evidence is consistently clear that Charlie deserves a chance at life.”
“There is much misinformation about Charlie’s condition, but he shows no signs of being in pain and experts say that alternative treatment has a chance of improving Charlie’s quality of life,” Foster said. “It is unacceptable that Charlie’s parents are being asked to prove that their son’s life is still worth fighting for when it is their right as parents to pursue what they consider best for Charlie.”
The judge, who earlier said it would be better for Charlie to die, said he would change his mind if there is evidence of a chance for him to live, according to the Guardian newspaper of London.
Foster is currently in Britain to assist Charlie’s parents. She believes that the medical evidence in Charlie’s favor is overwhelming.
“We have letters and invitations from doctors and specialists from around the world and medical evidence that shows that Charlie could greatly benefit from this ground-breaking treatment. Charlie’s parents have been seeking this treatment since November – it is now July – time is of the essence,” she said.
She pointed out the judge and the court are being asked only to “give Charlie this chance.”
Created Equal, a pro-life organization based in Columbus, Ohio, is holding a vigil for Charlie outside the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The goal is “to pray for Charlie, encourage his parents in their heroic struggle, and call for action by British officials,” according to an email.
A petition is circulating concerning Charlie’s condition, with just under 500,000 signatures, at Citizengo.org.
Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schindler Schiavo, told WND this week Charlie’s case is not being handled correctly. He’s president of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network.
Schiavo died in 2005 after a court ordered removal of her feeding tube and water at the request of her husband. Since then, Schindler has devoted himself to defending medically vulnerable people.
“Because of the nature of their fight, and the day to day uncertainty whether their child will live or die, [Charlie’s case is] reminiscent of my family’s fight to save my sister, Terri,” Schindler told WND.
Schindler believes Charlie’s struggle is vitally important in the larger struggle of parental rights against encroaching government influence in end-of-life decisions.
“I think it’s obvious to any normal observer of the news surrounding Charlie that this is a simple case of fit and competent parents being denied the right to care for their son, and an aggressive medical and legal system intent on imposing its will rather than empowering the weak and vulnerable – in this case, Charlie and his parents,” he said.
“Once these types of decisions are enshrined into its precedent – the notion, as we are seeing in Charlie’s case, that parents are not fit to determine how best to care for their son – people realize that the same thing could happen to them, and that it has literally been stated that it’s in Charlie’s best interest to die.”
Schindler sees a disturbing rise in cases like Charlie’s, which he attributes to cost-cutting initiatives.
“We currently live in a health-care system that is hyper-focused on controlling costs in terms of providing treatment,” he said. “The problem, it seems to me, is that decisions are now made on the premise that instead of providing long-term ‘costly’ care, it is much cheaper to deny care, especially if the hospital decides that the treatment is not going to have much success.
“Sadly, since we established the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network after Terri died, we are seeing an increase in situations like Charlie’s, which are often described as medical futility-denial of care cases,” Schindler continued. “Undoubtedly, with rising concerns in the costs, and bioethicists and ethics committees making quality of life judgments, persons need to understand the potential risks they may face and the real possibilities of being denied wanted, needed and helpful treatment.”
Schindler warns that people should learn more about their own medical rights, in case a situation like Charlie’s or Terri’s should ever happen to them.
“It is especially important today to know your rights as a patient,” he said. “Not only if you are admitted to the hospital, but whomever you appoint as your health-care surrogate that they know your rights, in the case you don’t have the capacities to make medical decisions yourself. It could be the difference whether you receive the care you need.”
WND reported earlier this year on the 12th anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo. The media and her husband, Michael Schiavo, asserted Terri was in a “persistent vegetative state,” but her parents and brother, Bobby Schindler, insisted otherwise, claiming she was able to swallow, laugh and express love for her family.
In 1990, Terri, at age 26, collapsed in her St. Petersburg, Florida, home for a reason that still hasn’t been explained and was taken to a hospital by first responders who feared she was dead. She was comatose for a time, then started responding and was moved to a care center. Her family members say she was getting better before her court-ordered starvation.
WND has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002. Read WND’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of her life-and-death fight, including more than 150 original stories and columns.