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Charlie Gard to be moved to a hospice to die, British judge rules

Terminally ill baby Charlie Gard is to be moved to a hospice where his life support will be switched off and he will ‘inevitably’ die, a judge has ruled

28 July 2017, 8:09am
Connie Yates and Chris Gard with baby Charlie
Connie Yates and Chris Gard with baby Charlie
Charlie Gard will spend his final hours in a hospice before the ventilator that keeps him alive is turned off, a judge ruled on Thursday, after a harrowing legal battle that prompted a debate over who has the moral right to decide the fate of a sick child.

The terminally ill baby, who would have turned one next week, is likely to pass away soon after artificial ventilation is removed.

Charlie's distraught parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, had been trying to find a medical team that could look after him in a hospice for several days so that they could bid farewell to him just days before his first birthday, which is due on 4 August. They had originally wanted their son to die at home, but later said they accepted Charlie could die in a hospice, and asked the judge to let them pay for a private medical team to oversee his final hours.

A judge had given the parents until noon to reach an agreement with Great Ormond Street Hospital about spending more time in a hospice, but no compromise was reached so a judge ruled that Charlie's artificial ventilation should be turned off.

"It is not in Charlie's best interests for artificial ventilation to continue to be provided to him, and it is therefore lawful and in his best interests for it to be withdrawn," High Court judge Nicholas Francis said in an order.

Charlie, who suffers from an extremely rare genetic condition causing progressive brain damage and muscle weakness, was at the centre of a legal battle that polarised opinion around the world as his parents fought to take him to the US for experimental treatment. A ventilator keeps the child alive, he cannot move his arms or legs, and he cannot see, hear or swallow.

The couple ended court proceedings after more than five months when new medical tests showed the infant had suffered irreversible muscular damage, meaning the new therapy was doomed to failure.

The tragedy for Charlie and his family has snowballed into a global debate, partly fuelled by social media, about the ethical dilemma of whether parents, doctors or the state should decide Charlie's fate.