The parents of baby Charlie Gard stormed out of Britain’s High Court on Thursday amid an emotional hearing as they fight to take him to the United States for experimental treatment for a rare genetic disorder.
At a preliminary hearing Monday before the judge who first heard the case, Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, were given two days to submit new written evidence regarding the viability of having Charlie treated abroad with experimental nucleoside therapy.
They are battling to keep their terminally ill 11-month-old son on life support so they can take him overseas for the treatment, a step opposed by his doctors on the grounds he may suffer without experiencing any benefit.
The judge, Justice Nicholas Francis, said he was keeping an open mind over his previous ruling that further treatment would be futile. “If there is important new evidence that suggests my decision should be changed then I will change it,” he said.
But he insisted the new evidence must be significant for him to reopen the case.
About two hours into the hearing, Charlie’s parents abruptly left the court after disagreeing with a comment by the judge.
Yates interrupted Francis as he said that the parents had said they would not want to prolong Charlie’s life in its present state, only if there was hope of improvement. “I never said that!” she exclaimed from her seat behind her barrister.
The judge attempted to clarify that one or other of the parents had said it, but both rose and left the court. They returned to the courtroom after the lunch break.
Under examination by the barrister for Charlie’s parents, a doctor testifying by video-link from the United States — who cannot be identified by court order — supported some key points of the parents’ case, saying that the baby’s MRI scan did not necessarily indicate structural damage to the brain.
The expert estimated there was an “11 to 56% chance of clinically meaningful improvement” in muscular function with the proposed treatment. The doctor also asserted that keeping Charlie on ventilator would not cause him harm because he did not seem to be in any significant pain.
Charlie’s mother responded to the testimony with a thumbs up.