London hospital reviews ending baby's life support

The hospital will reconsider its decision to turn off infant Charlie Gard's life support in the light of "fresh evidence" about a potential treatment.
The hospital will reconsider its decision to turn off infant Charlie Gard's life support in the light of "fresh evidence" about a potential treatment.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • In an abrupt shift, a London hospital said that it would reconsider its decision to turn off life support for Charlie Gard, a brain-damaged and terminally ill British infant, in the light of "fresh evidence" about a potential treatment.

Great Ormond Street Hospital's statement was the latest twist in a case that has raised difficult bioethical and legal questions, and has caught the attention of Pope Francis and United States President Donald Trump.

Charlie, who is 11 months old, has a rare and debilitating genetic condition that has no cure. The Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he has stayed at since October, said letting him die was the only humane option to end his potential pain and suffering. It had won a series of court rulings, most recently last week, authorising it to withdraw life support. On Friday afternoon, however, the hospital changed course.

"Two international hospitals and their researchers have communicated to us as late as the last 24 hours that they have fresh evidence about their proposed experimental treatment," the hospital said in the statement. "And we believe, in common with Charlie's parents, it is right to explore this evidence."

The boy's parents are convinced that an experimental therapy, developed by a US neurologist, may help their son recover some functions - even though it has never been tested on someone with Charlie's particularly severe form of the disease, known as mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.

The hospital said on Friday that it had not changed its view that Charlie had experienced "catastrophic and irreversible brain damage" and the experimental treatment, known as nucleoside therapy, "would be futile and would prolong Charlie's suffering". Nonetheless, it would ask the High Court, which on April 11 ruled in the hospital's favour, to look at the case again "in the light of the claimed new evidence".

Court papers refer to the neurologist only as Dr I.

When Charlie's doctors asked for evidence that the therapy might help, Dr I said: "There is no direct evidence, but there is a theoretical scientific basis for saying it could."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline 'London hospital reviews ending baby's life support'. Print Edition | Subscribe