Judge approves plan for Charlie Gard to be sent to hospice

Connie Yates, mother of critically ill baby Charlie Gard arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. A British judge is set to rule on where Charlie Gard, a baby with a rare genetic disease, will spend the last days of his life. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Connie Yates, mother of critically ill baby Charlie Gard arrives at the Royal Court of Justice in London, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. A British judge is set to rule on where Charlie Gard, a baby with a rare genetic disease, will spend the last days of his life. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON — A British judge ordered Thursday that critically ill infant Charlie Gard should be moved from a hospital to a hospice, where he will "inevitably" die within a short time.

Judge Nicholas Francis made the order after Charlie's parents and the hospital treating him failed to meet a deadline to agree on an end-of-life care plan that could have seen the baby kept alive for several more days.

The judge said that meant 11-month-old Charlie, who has a rare genetic disease called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, should now be transferred to a hospice and have the ventilator that keeps him alive removed.

The judge said that "will inevitably result in Charlie's death within a short period of time thereafter."

He barred identification of the hospice or any of the medical staff treating Charlie, and ordered that there should be no reporting of when Charlie is moved.

Charlie has brain damage and is unable to breathe or move his limbs unaided.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, spent months trying to persuade London's Great Ormond Street Hospital to let Charlie go to the United States for an experimental treatment they believed could help him. Charlie's doctors opposed the idea, saying it would not help and could cause Charlie more suffering.

British courts and the European Court of Human Rights all sided with the hospital in its bid to remove life support and allow Charlie to die naturally.

Earlier this week Charlie's parents gave up their legal fight, saying the baby's condition had deteriorated so far that the window of opportunity to help him had closed.

They then sought to take their son home to die, but Great Ormond Street Hospital said Charlie's complex needs made that impractical. At an emotional hearing on Wednesday, the judge said Charlie would, inevitably, end his days in a hospice. Yates left the hearing in tears, as the hospital and Charlie's parents continued to disagree on how long he should be kept on life support once he was taken to the hospice.

The case attracted international attention after U.S. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis expressed support for Charlie's parents. U.S.-based religious and anti-abortion activists flew to London to support the family's battle.

Charlie's case has become the catalyst for often emotional debates about health care funding, medical intervention, the role of the state and the rights of the child.

The judge this week condemned social-media commentators who discuss the case without knowing the facts.

Great Ormond Street, one of the world's leading children's hospitals, said the case had been "a uniquely painful and distressing process for all concerned," and it was sorry it had been played out in public.

"As the judge has now ruled, we will arrange for Charlie to be transferred to a specialist children's hospice, whose remarkable and compassionate staff will support his family at this impossible time," the hospital said in a statement.

"Every single one of us wishes there could have been a less tragic outcome," it said. "Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to Chris and Connie, and we hope that their privacy is respected at this devastating time for their family."

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