It’s down to the wire for Baby Charlie Gard: Today is his final court hearing

Charlie Gard – the 11-month-old British baby whose case has gained international media attention and tweets of support from the pope and President Trump (as well as offers of legislative help from a committee of the U.S. Congress) – will have his final day in court on Friday, July 21.  His fate – death or hope – will be decided once and for all by a judge early the following week.

Charlie's parents arrive at court, London, U.K., Friday morning, July 21, 2017

Charlie's case has been dragging on in the British court system since shortly after he was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition – mitochondrial DNA depletion – at age three months last fall.  His British doctors maintain that his prognosis is hopeless, and they want him to die.  His parents disagree – and now they have on their side the world's leading expert in the field of neuromuscular disorders, Michio Hirano, M.D. of Columbia University in New York.

Dr. Hirano flew to London, where Charlie is hospitalized, and examined the infant with the hospital's permission on Monday and Tuesday, July 17 and 18.  Although experts taking care of Charlie and evaluating his condition are supposed to refrain from commenting publicly, since the case is under judicial review, the London press has reported that Dr. Hirano tried to convince the British physicians and the hospital that Charlie could benefit from the experimental therapies that Dr. Hirano has pioneered and that Charlie should be allowed to be taken to New York for treatment there.  These same press reports indicated that the British doctors are ignoring Dr. Hirano's advice and holding firm that Charlie should be disconnected from life support, prevented from leaving the country, and allowed to die as soon as possible.

So it is now up to the British High Court to decide what to do.  AOL News U.K. reported early Friday morning U.S. EDT that the Family Division of the High Court in London has scheduled a final two-hour hearing on the case on Friday, July 21.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates [Charlie's parents] want Mr Justice Francis to rule that their 11-month-old son, who suffers from a rare genetic condition and has brain damage, should be allowed to undergo a therapy trial overseen by a specialist in New York.

Specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where Charlie is being cared for, say the therapy is experimental and will not help.

They say life support treatment should stop.

Chris and Charlie Gard

Earlier judicial proceedings in the British High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court in London have all ruled against the parents.  The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, described as a supra-national or international court established by the European Convention on Human Rights, declined to hear the case in late June.

One can scarcely imagine the stress that the parents, family, friends, and supporters of Charlie Gard are experiencing right now as this weekend, potentially the final one of the young child's life, is approaching.  Hopes were raised earlier this week when Dr. Hirano examined the boy and reportedly concluded that there is hope for him –  in terms of both extended survival and significant improvement – if he can be transported to hospital in New York.  Meanwhile, the parents of another patient of Dr. Hirano's with a condition similar to Charlie's, Arturo Estopinan, have come forward with testimony that Dr. Hirano's experimental therapy helped their son to survive and to significantly improve his quality of life.  The British physicians, politicians, and judges, however, are holding their ground.  They are serving a statist master – the U.K.'s National Health Service, a single-payer socialist system in place since 1948 – that requires death panels and rationing to keep itself going.  There is simply no accommodation for a patient like Charlie in this decrepit and failing nationalized system.

Baby Charlie Gard (BBC Featureworld)

The supporters of Charlie and his parents from around the world – and there are untold numbers of them (who at last count have contributed over £1,339,950 – the equivalent of $1.75 million U.S.) for Charlie's treatment in New York – are praying that the British High Court will do the right thing and allow Charlie to go to the United States without further delay.


In a brief article from London time stamped 7:07 AM EDT, Friday, July 21, the AP reported: "Judge Nicholas Francis, who has overseen the latest round of hearings in the case at London's High Court, said Friday that parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates could present evidence in full-day hearings early next week. He said the evidence must be new and relevant to the case."

This development contradicts a wide range of previous reporting which said that today's – Friday's – hearing would be the last one before the judge's final decision in the case is announced next Monday or Tuesday (July 24 and 25).

Watching this from afar, one can only conclude that this drawn out process must be unbearable for the parents of Charlie Gard.  Meanwhile, every day that the decision on his fate is delayed is another day that Charlie and his parents are being prevented from traveling to New York, where he can get access to a therapy that has a chance of actually helping him.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care.  His new website is  His July 13, 2017 one-hour interview on the Hagmann Report can be watched here.

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