A High Court judge has given Charlie Gard’s parents less than 48 hours to prove an experimental treatment works, while taking a sideswipe at Donald Trump for interfering in the case.
The boy’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, grew more and more distressed and upset during the hearing, interrupting lawyers to accuse Great Ormond Street Hospital, which is treating him, of lying.
In one impassioned plea, Miss Yates, 31, said: “He is our son. Please listen to us.”
Mr Gard, 32, said in an another interruption of Great Ormond Street’s lawyer: “When are you going to start telling the truth? They are lying to you.”
At the end of the hearing Mr Gard walked out and punched the wall in frustration.
Mr Justice Francis ordered Charlie’s parents to provide new evidence that would show an untested therapy would be effective. The High Court judge gave the couple until 2pm on Wednesday to produce the material ahead of a further hearing on Thursday morning to decide the 11-month-old’s fate.
In a seeming swipe at the US president, who posted on Twitter a week ago: “If we can help #CharlieGard… we would be delighted to do so”, Mr Justice Francis told the court: “I have to decide this case not on the basis of tweets but on the basis of clear evidence.”
He added: “I understand parents will grasp at any possibility of hope.”
The case has become a huge cause celebre, with the Pope also offering support, while a worldwide campaign ‘#I am Charlie Gard’ was launched on Facebook and Twitter by a group of evangelical Christians who flew to Britain from the US to take up the campaign.
Mr Gard and Miss Yates, from Bedfont, in west London, want to send their son to America or Italy for treatment for his rare genetic condition, claiming new research shows he could improve by at least ‘ten per cent’.
Their lawyers requested a new court case in two weeks’ time but the judge said it would be wrong to wait that long. He read out a statement from a Great Ormond Street member of staff who said that doctors and nurses were under “extreme strain” with the case dragging on.
Mr Justice Francis said: “Staff feel it is desperately unfair to Charlie… week after week knowing that every step they take for Charlie is against his welfare.”
Mr Justice Francis ruled in April that Charlie’s life support should be withdrawn and that he be allowed to ‘die in dignity’ while blocking any attempt to take him overseas.
Lawyers for Charlie’s parents called for the judge to remove himself from the case on the grounds he had already made his mind up. But the judge insisted he remained the best person to decide if the new claims of successful experimental therapy amounted to fresh evidence.
The judge said: “You are going to have to persuade me that something new or dramatic has changed.”
Great Ormond Street Hospital disputed claims made by Charlie’s parents that there was new evidence. The hospital’s lawyer Katie Gollop QC said it had been forced to come back to the High Court for this latest hearing after Miss Yates’ and Mr Gard’s legal team threatened a judicial review.
But Ms Gollop said: “Some of this new evidence that was said to be new is not new.”
The hospital insists Charlie’s body is growing but that his brain is not, proof they claim that the little’s boy’s condition is deteriorating and that he has suffered irreversible brain damage.
The judge suggested the circumference of Charlie’s head be measured to see whether it had grown since the original court hearing in April.
Seven scientists, who cannot be identified due a court order, had submitted a letter in support of the couple, saying the treatment could help. The scientists said that “ideally” it should be tested on mice first but there wasn’t time for such a trial in Charlie’s case.