LONDON – Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday declined to intervene in the case of a sick British 10-month-old whose parents were legally blocked from taking him to a treatment trial in the United States.
“It’s an unimaginable position for anybody to be in,” May told Parliament when asked about Charlie Gard, widely known as Baby Charlie, who suffers from a rare condition that causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.
May said that any parent would “want to do everything possible” for their child, but she declined to support a plea from parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates to allow the family to travel to the U.S.
“But I also know that no doctor ever wants to be placed in the terrible position where they have to make such heartbreaking decisions,” she said.
Specialists at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital decided that a therapy proposed by a U.S. doctor for the infant was experimental and would not help, and that life support for the child should be stopped.
British and European courts had upheld lower court judgments ruling that the infant’s life support should be ended so that he could die with dignity.
“I’m confident that Great Ormond Street Hospital have and always will consider any offers or new information that has come forward with consideration of the well-being of a desperately ill child,” May said.
“Disgraceful!” Gard and Yates said on Twitter in reaction to May’s statement.
The couple plan to join a protest on Thursday at Downing Street, the British prime minister’s residence in London.
They had urged supporters on Tuesday to ask May to “step in and save Charlie Gard.”
On Monday, President Donald Trump offered to help the family, following an earlier call from Pope Francis, who said he hoped the parents’ “desire to accompany and care for their own child until the end will be respected.”
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said he offered to treat the infant at the Vatican-run Bambino Gesu hospital in a phone call with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, on Wednesday.
Johnson expressed gratitude for the Italian offer but “explained that legal reasons prevented Britain from accepting it,” the Italian Foreign Ministry said.
The parents had said earlier that they expected doctors to end life support for their child last Friday.
But the hospital said it had agreed to new plans with Gard and Yates “for his care, and to give them more time together as a family.”
Charlie suffers from mitochondrial depletion syndrome. He is believed to be one of only 16 children worldwide with the disease, the BBC reported.
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