On Monday the Vatican and the White House offered support to the family of a terminally ill British baby whom the European courts ruled could be taken off life support against the will of his parents.
Charlie Gard suffers from a rare mitochondrial disorder, known as MDDS, that leaves him unable to hear and see or to move or breathe unaided, according to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he is being treated. The condition is currently incurable.
A series of British court rulings have found that continuing Charlie’s treatment could cause “significant harm.” And on Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the hospital can take him off life support, in accordance with Charlie’s doctors’ wishes.
His parents, however, have raised nearly $2 million to bring Charlie to an American hospital to undergo experimental treatment. As is written on their GoFundMe page,
“we found hope in a medication that may help him and a Dr in America has accepted him in his hospital. It hasn’t been tried on anyone with his gene before (he’s only number 16 in the world ever reported) but it’s had success with another mitochondrial depletion syndrome called TK2 which is similar – it’s helping children to get their strength back and live longer!”
And while the American doctor has agreed to treat Charlie if he can make it to the United States, he also told a British court that “it is very unlikely that he will improve with that therapy.”
On Monday President Trump tweeted, “If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.”
How the president might be able to help is unclear, but a spokeswoman tried to clarify on Monday.
“Although the President himself has not spoken to the family, he does not want to pressure them in any way, members of the administration have spoken to the family in calls facilitated by the British government,” said Helen Ferre, the director of media affairs at the White House. “The President is just trying to be helpful if at all possible.”
Ferre added that legal issues prevent her from confirming the name of the doctor or hospital where the baby could be treated in the United States.
Earlier in the day, the Vatican released a statement saying that “the Pope prays for 10-month old Charlie Gard’s parents and hopes ‘that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end is not ignored.’ ”
The Daily Mail reports that life support was due to be switched off on July 7, but Charlie’s mother told the British newspaper last week that she and her husband asked the hospital for more time with their son.
“We have been in talks today with Great Ormond Street and they have agreed to give us a little bit more time with Charlie,” said the baby’s mother, Connie Yates. “We’re making precious memories that we can treasure forever with very heavy hearts.”
While Trump’s tweet was reposted to Yates’ social media accounts, by Monday afternoon Charlie’s parents had not publicly commented on his offer to help.