Parents of terminally ill baby lose European court appeal

European judges yesterday rejected an appeal by Chris Gard and Connie Yates to intervene in their case so that doctors would have to continue life-sustaining treatment for ten-month-old Charlie.

A spokeswoman for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, which has been treating Charlie, acknowledged his parents would find Tuesday’s news upsetting.

“Charlie’s parents also asked the courts to consider whether it would be in the best interests of their son to undergo experimental treatment in the USA”.

A well-wisher called Mike Dutton donated £10 more than two hours after Strasbourg judges announced their decision. As the parents explained in their fundraising efforts, the therapy is an oral medication that provides Charlie with naturally occurring compounds that his body is not able to produce.

Lawyers, who represented Charlie’s parents for free, said Mr Justice Francis had not given enough weight to Charlie’s human right to life.

She has thanked “everyone who has supported us”, said their faith in humanity had been restored and added: “We will always be eternally grateful, whatever the outcome for Charlie”. The hospital was backed by the High Court, and the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

Charlie’s parents had previously seen a Supreme Court challenge to continue Charlie’s life support fail.

Charlie’s parents had hoped to take their son to the United States where a doctor had agreed to carry out an experimental treatment called nucleoside bypass therapy.

“Today’s decision by the European Court of Human Rights marks the end of what has been a very hard process and our priority is to provide every possible support to Charlie’s parents as we prepare for the next steps”.

“There will be no rush by Great Ormond Street hospital to change Charlie’s care and any future treatment plans will involve careful planning and discussion”.

According to bioethicist Julian Savulescu of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, the experimental therapy offers a very small chance of some improvement.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates have now lost their final legal bid to take their son to the U.S. for treatment.

In fact, it has never been used to treat this form of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, according to the British ruling, though it has proved beneficial to patients with a different form of the disease.

The ECHR noted the “sensitive” nature of the case, but in its ruling said: “The domestic court decisions had been meticulous, thorough and reviewed at three levels of jurisdiction with clear and extensive reasoning giving relevant and sufficient support for their conclusions”.

Keeping Charlie alive is likely to be exposing him to “pain, suffering and distress” and the treatment has “no prospects of success”, judges said.

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