LONDON, ENGLAND — The parents of Charlie Gard, the infant at the center of an international right to life debate, have ended their fight to bring the terminally ill child to the United States where he would have received experimental treatment for his condition.
As tears streamed down their faces, Chris Gard and Connie Yates stood next to their attorney who announced the young couple’s heartbreaking decision.
“Time has run out. The window of opportunity has been lost,” the couple’s lawyer, Grant Armstrong, said at London’s High Court. “It’s too late for Charlie. The damage has been done.”
Charlie, who had gained support from both U.S. president Donald Trump and Pope Francis who argued that the infant deserved every opportunity for treatment, suffers from rare genetic condition, Mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. As a result of his deteriorating condition the child suffers from brain damage and is unable to breathe on his own.
The 11 month old’s parents were expected to present argument before the High Court on Monday that they initially hoped would sway the court to allow them to take the child to the United States to seek additional treatment but after consulting with specialists in the U.S. it was determined that too much time had been wasted in the ongoing legal battle with the hospital where Charlie had been receiving care.
Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Charlie has been undergoing treatment since last October, had petitioned the court to allow them to turn off life support for the infant on the grounds that more treatment would only cause Charlie undue pain. Charlie’s parents, on the other hand, refused to allow them to do so and petitioned the High Court to allow them to seek experimental treatment outside the country.
With the court’s permission, Dr. Michio Hirano, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center, which has treated children with the syndrome in the past, examined the boy last week but determined that the child’s condition was at a point of no return.
Sobbing as she stood in front of the court, the boy’s mother said that she and her husband “only wanted to give him a chance of life.” She added “we have decided to let our son go” after determining that at this point there was no hope.
The judge hearing the case, Nicholas Francis, praised the parents on Monday for their fight to help save their son. “No parent could have done more for their child,” he told them, recognizing that the only “right thing” do to now is “to let him die with dignity.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Great Ormond Street Hospital expressed sympathy for Charlie’s parents and said no specified a timeline for shutting off the boy’s life support. The decision on to when to do so, said the hospital, will be made in consultation with the parents.