By LEONORE SCHICK and DANICA KIRKA
LONDON Charlie Gard, the critically ill British baby at the center of a legal battle that attracted the attention of Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump, has died, according to a family spokeswoman. He would have turned 1 next week.
Charlie suffered from a rare genetic disease, mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which caused brain damage and left him unable to breathe unaided.
His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, raised more than 1.3 million pounds ($1.7 million) to take him to the United States for experimental therapy they believed could prolong his life. But Charlie’s doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital objected, saying the treatment wouldn’t help and might cause him to suffer. The dispute ended up in court.
The case became a flashpoint for debates on health-care funding, medical intervention, the role of the state and the rights of children.
After months of legal battles, High Court Judge Nicholas Francis ruled Thursday that Charlie should be transferred to a hospice and taken off life support after his parents and the hospital that had been treating him failed to agree on an end-of-life care plan for the infant.
Under British law, it is common for courts to intervene when parents and doctors disagree on the treatment of a child. In such cases, the rights of the child take primacy over the parents’ right to decide what’s best for their offspring. The principle applies even in cases where parents have an alternative point of view, such as when religious beliefs prohibit blood transfusions.
The case made it all the way to Britain’s Supreme Court as Charlie’s parents refused to accept decisions by a series of judges who backed Great Ormond Street. But the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts, saying it was in Charlie’s best interests that he be allowed to die.
The case caught the attention of Trump and the pope after the European Court of Human Rights refused to intervene. The two leaders…