Court decision will remove terminally ill baby from life support

On August 4, 2016, Connie Yates gave birth to her son Charlie in a hospital in London, England. Connie and her partner Chris Gard were overjoyed to hold their baby son in their arms. At first everything seemed perfect, but within a few weeks Charlie's health began to decline. He was very weak and was losing weight. Connie and Chris started to worry.

In October, at just eight weeks old, Charlie admitted to hospital with aspiration pneumonia. Shortly thereafter, doctors made a shocking diagnosis: Charlie suffered from a rare condition called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDS). This hereditary disease causes severe brain damage, sudden fainting, muscular atrophy, hearing loss, breathing problems and can lead to kidney and liver damage. There is no known cure for the condition. Charlie's parents were devastated.

Charlie's condition deteriorated rapidly and — due to extensive brain damage — he has been dependent on a ventilator to keep him alive.

Knowing that Charlie's condition would never improve, doctors knew that they had to make a very tough decision.

Against Connie's and Chris's will, the Great Ormond Street Hospital applied to the court for permission to discontinue Charlie's life support and to move him to palliative care. The case was heard and on April 11, 2017, the judge decided to grant the hospital permission to allow Charlie to die with dignity. Chris and Connie were stunned by the decision and have three weeks in which to launch an appeal.

Shortly before the court decision Connie shared her feelings in this Facebook post...

Connie and Chris refuse to give up hope. They are determined to get Charlie to the US to try a new experimental treatment that they believe could prolong his life, although the brain damage he has suffered is sadly not reversible. Their funding campaign has already received £1.3 million pounds (over $1.6 million) in donations. If the funds do not end up being used to treat Charlie, Connie and Chris have indicated they will start a foundation to support other families coping with MDS.

The case has been heartbreaking for all involved and has stimulated intense debate on right-to-die vs. parental rights issues. Whatever the outcome, Connie and Chris can be certain that they have done everything possible for Charlie. For what it may have lacked in health, Charlie's life has been rich in love.

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