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Hospital in 'no rush' to turn off baby's life support machine after parents lose appeal

Charlie Gard’s parents have described the court ruling as “upsetting”.

Charlie Gard
Charlie Gard

Updated 7.55pm

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Human Rights has rejected an appeal by the parents of a terminally ill baby that he should undergo experimental treatment in the US.

Charlie, who is 11 months old, suffers from a rare genetic condition and has brain damage from which he will not recover. He is on a life support machine at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London.

In its ruling, the ECHR noted: “In February 2017, the treating hospital sought a declaration from the domestic courts as to whether it would be lawful to withdraw artificial ventilation and provide Charlie with palliative care.

“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.

“The domestic courts concluded that it would be lawful for the hospital to withdraw life sustaining treatment because it was likely that Charlie would suffer significant harm if his present suffering was prolonged without any realistic prospect of improvement, and the experimental therapy would be of no effective benefit.”

In the proceedings before the ECHR, Charlie’s parents – Chris Gard and Connie Yates – argued a number of points, including that under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to life) the hospital had blocked access to treatment in the US and that, under Article 5 (right to liberty and security), he was being “unlawfully deprived of his liberty”.

Yates told Sky News today’s decision is “upsetting“.

A spokesperson for GOSH said: “Our thoughts are with Charlie’s parents on receipt of this news which we know will be very distressing for them.

Today’s decision by the European Court of Human Rights marks the end of what has been a very difficult 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.”

Medical experts 

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.

The domestic courts had direct contact with all those concerned (notably, they had heard from all the medical experts involved in the treatment as well as experts instructed by the applicants, from Charlie’s parents themselves and from an independent professional appointed as the child’s guardian…)

“The domestic courts had concluded, on the basis of extensive, high-quality expert evidence, that it was most likely Charlie was being exposed to continued pain, suffering and distress and that undergoing experimental treatment with no prospects of success would offer no benefit, and continue to cause him significant harm.”

Read: ‘We’re not horrible people’ – Mother of terminally-ill baby defends taking case to European court

Read: European rights court urges UK to keep treating baby with rare condition

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Órla Ryan

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