LONDON — A five-month legal battle to take terminally ill baby Charlie Gard to the United States for experimental treatment ended Monday after his parents told a British court they were withdrawing their legal challenge.
Charlie Gard’s parents, supported by an American neurologist and Italian medical researchers, had wanted the 11-month-old to be given the legal right to receive an untested therapy in the U.S. that they admitted was unlikely to work. The child has a rare, incurable genetic disorder.
But a lawyer representing Chris Gard, 32, and Connie Yates, 31, told Britain’s High Court that “time had run out.”
The London hospital where Gard has received all his treatment believed there was no medical evidence to support claims the therapy could work. It also feared it could prolong his suffering. Gard’s disease has left him with brain damage and unable to move. He can’t see or hear and needs a ventilator to breathe. In Britain, disputes between families and doctors over how to treat a patient are decided by courts. In the U.S., it is the family that typically makes that decision.
The judge scheduled the two-day hearing to consider fresh evidence related to the proposed treatment, after Michio Hirano, a neurology professor at Columbia University Medical Center, traveled to London to evaluate Gard and provide more detail about the therapy he wants to administer. The court previously ruled that Gard’s life-support machine should be turned off and that he should be allowed die with “dignity.”
The case has drawn massive international interest including high-profile interventions from President Trump and Pope Francis in support of the family. Congressional Republicans are seeking passage of legislation that would give the Gard family U.S. residency and a potential route to treatment there, although it’s not clear whether that would ultimately enable them to obviate a British court decision.
Over the weekend, the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London revealed its staff had received death threats over the case. “Thousands of abusive messages have been sent to doctors and nurses whose life’s work is to care for sick children. Many of these messages are menacing, including death threats,” the hospital said in a statement.
“Families have been harassed and discomforted while visiting their children, and we have received complaints of unacceptable behavior even within the hospital itself.”
Last week, Great Ormond Street Hospital in London told Gard’s parents, Chris Gard, 32, and Connie Yates, 31, that the latest scan of Charlie’s brain made for “sad reading.”