Everyone wants to save Charlie Gard.
We see his tiny, delicate baby face, with tubes stuck into his nose. We see his cute little starry jumpsuit and the cheerful toy monkey resting on his chest. We see his brave, determined parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, the strain etched into their faces, fighting for their desperately ill little boy.
We all want the miracle ending where the tubes are taken out, and Charlie opens his eyes and goes home to live a normal, happy life with his loving mum and dad. That’s why more than 80,000 people have donated the equivalent of more than two million dollars for his treatment. That’s why there are hashtags like #jesuischarliegard. That’s why US president Donald Trump has stepped in to offer his help.
Sadly, for Charlie Gard, there won’t be a miracle ending. This 11-month-old British baby has severe, irreversible brain damage. The experimental treatment in the US has never been tried on someone with his form of mitochondrial depletion syndrome, and even if it did work on him, it couldn’t reverse the brain damage.
Even the professor who oversees the experimental treatment in the US agrees that Charlie is in the “terminal” stage of his illness.
The doctors who have been treating Charlie at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children believe that his life support should be turned off. A series of court judgements have backed them up. The doctors have not come to this decision on a whim. They are not being heartless. They are not ignorant.
As well as the severe brain damage, Charlie can’t breathe on his own, or move his limbs. He can’t see or hear, and his internal organs are damaged. His doctors believe he is suffering significant pain by being kept on life support, and he would suffer more pain and distress if taken overseas for treatment, with no hope that it would improve his quality of life.
The court judgements are long and detailed. I read one of them that was 17,000 words. I don’t think anyone could read it and still support sending Charlie to the US.
It’s easy to look like a hero by tapping out a tweet of 140 characters. It’s much harder to digest a document of 17,000 words and think about what’s really best for this little boy.
LISTEN: This Glorious Mess discusses what to say to someone who's lost a baby (post continues after audio...)
Trump has the power to improve a huge number of people’s lives, but he can’t make Charlie better. No one can.
Pope Francis has got in on the act, saying he’s praying that the parents’ wish “to accompany and treat their child until the end isn’t neglected”. Art Estopinan, the US father of a child with a similar but different condition, has gone to the media, saying Charlie deserves a chance at treatment.
Protestors have gathered outside Buckingham Palace, chanting “Save Charlie Gard” and holding up placards with messages such as “It’s murder”. Right-wing commentators in the US are having their say, with one, Paul Nehlen, claiming that this case is “further proof that socialism kills”.
But it’s time for everyone to stop. Charlie’s case has run its course through the court system. People without full knowledge of his medical condition shouldn’t be offering false hope. Charlie shouldn’t be used as some kind of point-scoring football. He’s one very sick child with two traumatised parents.
Our hearts are all breaking for Charlie and his parents. They say he will die knowing he was “loved by thousands”. He was.