The mother of Charlie Gard has said her son could be on the road to recovery if he hadn’t been denied potentially life-saving treatment by doctors.
Connie Yates said precious time had been wasted in the legal battle to save her terminally ill baby when he could have been getting better.
Charlie suffers from a rare inherited disease – infantile onset encephalomyopathy mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS) – and doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) have argued that he should be allowed to die with dignity.
His parents wanted him to be given an experimental treatment by specialist Michio Hirano, a professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York.
But Ms Yates and Charlie’s father, Chris Gard, ended their legal fight over treatment for their son at a hearing at the High Court on Monday, saying it had become too late to treat him.
In a statement from the witness box, Ms Yates said: ‘There is one simple reason for Charlie’s muscles deteriorating to the extent they are in now – time. A whole lot of wasted time.
‘Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy.’
Ms Yates said two doctors enlisted by the family had reviewed Charlie’s scans from January and April this year and found they showed no evidence of irreversible brain damage.
She said Charlie ‘would be on treatment now and improving all the time’ if independent doctors had been given access to the earlier raw data before the initial trial.
‘However, we are now in July and our poor boy has been left to just lie in hospital for months without any treatment whilst lengthy court battles have been fought,’ she said.
‘We only wanted to give him a chance of life,’ she said.
Ms Yates wept as she told the court: ‘We are sorry we could not save you.’
Informing the court of Charlie’s parents’ decision to drop their legal case, their barrister, Grant Armstrong, said: ‘This case is now about time. Sadly, time has run out.’
Mr Armstrong said Charlie’s parents had made the decision to end their legal fight following the latest medical reports and scans, which revealed that damage to Charlie’s muscle and tissue was irreversible.
‘The parents’ worst fears have been confirmed,’ he said. ‘It is now too late to treat Charlie.’
The couple felt that continuing their fight would cause Charlie pain, said Mr Armstrong.
He said the case was ‘worthy of a Greek tragedy’.
Mr Armstrong said Charlie’s parents hoped to set up a foundation and that they wanted lessons to be learned from their case.
‘Dark days lie ahead for these parents,’ said Mr Armstrong. ‘The parents wish to treasure their remaining time with Charlie, however short that may be.’
Mr Justice Francis paid tribute to Charlie’s parents and said no-one could comprehend their agony. However, the judge said the couple now had to face reality.
He praised Great Ormond Street medics who had worked ‘tirelessly’ and said it was a ‘disgrace’ that staff had been subjected to abuse and threats.
The judge said lawyers had represented Charlie for free and suggested that they should have been entitled to legal aid.
The judge said other parents were in the same position and suggested a legal aid review.
After the judge concluded his remarks, Ms Yates made her statement to the court from the witness box.
Outside court, supporters calling themselves Charlie’s Army reacted with anger and tears, chanting: ‘shame on you judge’ and ‘shame on GOSH’.
In a statement, GOSH said they were surprised that Dr Hirano, the American specialist who had travelled to London to assess Charlie, had a financial stake in some of the drugs that could have been prescribed to the boy.
GOSH said in a statement: ‘On July 13 he (Dr Hirano) stated that not only had he not visited the hospital to examine Charlie but in addition, he had not read Charlie’s contemporaneous medical records or viewed Charlie’s brain imaging or read all of the second opinions about Charlie’s condition.
‘Further, GOSH was concerned to hear the Professor state, for the first time, whilst in the witness box, that he retains a financial interest in some of the compounds he proposed prescribing for Charlie.
‘Devastatingly, the information obtained since 13 July gives no cause for optimism. Rather, it confirms that whilst NBT may well assist others in the future, it cannot and could not have assisted Charlie’.
Dr Hirano, a professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, travelled to London to examine Charlie for the first time and discuss the case with Great Ormond Street doctors.
Mr Gard and Ms Yates had originally asked judges to rule that Charlie, who suffers from a rare genetic condition and has brain damage, should be allowed to undergo a therapy trial in New York.
Doctors at Great Ormond Street said the therapy is experimental and would not help., and that life-support treatment for Charlie should stop.
Charlie’s parents, who are in their 30s and come from Bedfont, west London, had already lost battles in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in London. They have also failed to persuade European Court of Human Rights judges to intervene.
On Sunday, the couple said they were ‘extremely upset’ at ‘hurtful comments’ they had received from the public.
It came after Great Ormond Street revealed that staff at the hospital had received abusive messages, including death threats, in recent weeks.
In a statement, the couple said: ‘We are extremely upset by the backlash we’ve received after Great Ormond Street Hospital put out their statement last night.
‘Chris and I are just ordinary parents with a very sick baby and we simply have his best interests at heart.
‘Despite conflicting issues, we have always had the utmost respect for all the staff who work tirelessly at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the very difficult jobs they do every day.
‘And, like them, we have been shocked by some of the public response to this case and agree with them that it is disgraceful that doctors have received death threats.’
CONNIE YATES’S STATEMENT IN THE HIGH COURT IN FULL:
‘The last 11 nearly 12 months have been the best, the worst and ultimately life changing months of our lives but Charlie is Charlie and we wouldn’t change him for the world. All our efforts have been for him.
This is one of the hardest things that we will ever have to say and we are about to do the hardest thing that we’ll ever have to do which is to let our beautiful little Charlie go.
Put simply, this is about a sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy who was born with a rare disease, who had a real, genuine chance at life and a family who love him so very dearly and that’s why we fought so hard for him.
We are truly devastated to say that following the most recent MRI scan of Charlie’s muscles, as requested in the recent MDT meeting by Dr Hirano; as Charlie’s devoted and loving parents we have decided that it’s no longer in Charlie’s best interests to pursue treatment and we will let our son go and be with the angels.
The American and Italian team were still willing to treat Charlie after seeing both his recent brain MRI and EEG performed last week. He’s not brain dead (and never has been). He still responds to us, even now, but after reviewing the recent muscle MRI it was considered that Charlie’s muscles have deteriorated to the extent that it is largely irreversible and, were treatment to work, his quality of life would now not be one which we would want for our precious little boy. They both agreed that treatment should have been started sooner.
There is one simple reason for Charlie’s muscles deteriorating to the extent they are in now – TIME. A whole lot of wasted time. Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy. His muscles were in pretty good shape in January, although obviously weaker than a child of similar age, and his brain scan was that of a relatively normal child of his age. He may well have had some disabilities later on in life but his quality of life could have been improved greatly. The reason that treatment was not commenced in January orApril this year was that Charlie was found to have ‘irreversible brain damage’ and treatment was considered as ‘futile’.
Dr Hirano and Dr Bertini, together with other internationally renowned paediatric neurologists have now reviewed Charlie’s MRI’s and EEG’s which were performed in January and April respectively and they have confirmed that these MRI’s and EEG’s showed NO actual evidence of irreversible brain damage. Unfortunately Professor Hirano did not have access to the raw data and he based what he said in April on reports. We did not have access to these second opinions before the initial trial, hence why we are where we are today. Had we had the opportunity to have raw data of the MRIs and EEGs independently reviewed, we are convinced Charlie would be on treatment now and improving all the time.
However, we are now in July and our poor boy has been left to just lie in hospital for months without any treatment whilst lengthy court battles have been fought. We have been told time and time again that Charlie has a ‘progressive disease’ but rather than allow treatment for him with a medication that was widely accepted to have no side effects, Charlie has been left with his illness to deteriorate, sadly, to the point of no return.
We would like to say a few words in the hope that Charlie’s life will not be in vain. We have always acted in our son’s best interests from the very beginning. We were told back in November that all his organs would fail and it was likely that we only had days left with him but to this day aside from Charlie’s need for ventilation not one organ has ‘failed’. We have always been led by Charlie. I promise every single one of you that we would not have fought this hard for our son if we thought that he was in pain or suffering. There has never been any proof that he was and we still don’t think that he’s in pain or suffering to this day. Having said that, we have decided to let our son go and that’s for one reason and one reason only. It is because the prospect of improvement is unfortunately now too low for Charlie.
Our doctors in America and Italy were still willing to treat Charlie after reviewing the MRI head scan from July 2017 as they still felt that there was a chance of meaningful improvement in Charlie’s brain. However, due to the deterioration in his muscles, there is now no way back for Charlie. Time that has been wasted. It is time that has sadly gone against him.
We now have 7 experts supporting therapy for Charlie’s condition which I think is proof that it was more than reasonable to try it. Nucleosides are simply a powder that would’ve gone into Charlie’s milk and are compounds which all of us in this room produce naturally. Unfortunately, Charlie can’t produce these due to his disease, which is why he is the way he is. We want people to realise that we have been speaking to parents whose children were just like Charlie before starting treatment and now some of them are walking around like normal children. We wanted Charlie to have that chance too.
Our son has an extremely rare disease for which there is no accepted cure but that does not mean that this treatment would not have worked, and it certainly does not mean that this shouldn’t have been tried. We have only been asking for a 3 month trial of treatment to see if there was any improvement. We have been asking for this short trial for the past 8 months. Charlie did have a real chance of getting better if only therapy was started sooner. It was never false hope as confirmed by many experts. Now we will never know what would have happened if he got treatment but it’s not about us. It’s never been about us. It’s about what’s best for Charlie now. At the point in time when it has become too late for Charlie we have made the agonising decision to let him go.
This has also never been about ‘parents know best’. We have continuously listened to experts in this field and it has raised fundamental issues, ethically, legally and medically – this is why the story of one little boy from two normal everyday people has raised such conflicting opinions and ferocious arguments worldwide.
All we wanted to do was take Charlie from one world renowned hospital to another world renowned hospital in the attempt to save his life and to be treated by the world leader in mitochondrial disease. We feel that we should have been trusted as parents to do so but we will always know in our hearts that we did the very best for Charlie and I hope that he is proud of us for fighting his corner.
We will have to live with the ‘what if’s’ which will haunt us for the rest of our lives but we’re thinking about what’s best for our son. We have always believed that Charlie deserved a chance at life and we knew that his brain was not as bad it was made out to be and that’s why we continued.
We completely understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion and this was always going to be a matter which would cause a huge debate in who’s right and who’s wrong. In truth, there are no winners here. One thing is for sure though. We know deep within our hearts that we have always had Charlie’s best interests in the forefront of our minds and despite what some people think of us, we will try to walk away from this with our heads held high. As I said, we know the truth, and in our hearts we know that we have done all of this for our darling little Charlie. We have never done this for selfish reasons. We didn’t keep him alive just because we couldn’t bear to lose him.
Charlie had a real chance of getting better. It’s now unfortunately too late for him but it’s not too late for others with this horrible disease and other diseases. We will continue to help and support families of ill children and try and make Charlie live on in the lives of others. We owe it to him to not let his life be in vain.
We would like to thank our current legal team who have worked tirelessly to try and save Charlie’s life and they have not asked for a single penny. They won’t even let us buy them a coffee. They have done it out of the kindness of their hearts because they believed in us and they certainly believed in Charlie. We would like to thank everybody who has supported us throughout this journey in this country and thousands of people worldwide and we also would like to thank the staff at GOSH who have looked after Charlie and kept him comfortable and stable for so long. The care he has received from the nurses who’ve cared for him has been second to none. But most of all, we would like to thank Charlie for the joy he has brought to our lives. The love we have for you is too much for words and we love you so very much.
Despite the way that our beautiful son has been spoken about sometimes, as if he not worthy of a chance at life, our son is an absolute WARRIOR and we could not be prouder of him and we will miss him terribly. One little boy has brought the world together and whatever people’s opinions are, no one can deny the impact our beautiful son has had on the world and his legacy will never ever die. Charlie has had a greater impact on and touched more people in this world in his 11 months than many people do in a life time. We could not have more love and pride for our beautiful boy.
His body, heart and soul may soon be gone, but his spirit will live on for eternity and he will make a difference to people’s lives for years to come. As his mum and dad, we will make sure of that. We owe that to our boy. We will do our utmost to ensure that no parents have to go through what we have been through and the next Charlie that comes along WILL get this medicine before it’s too late and Charlie will save many more lives in the future, no doubt about that.
We are struggling to find any comfort or peace with all this, but one thing that does give us the slightest bit of comfort, is that we truly believe that Charlie may have been too special for this cruel world.
We are now going to spend our last precious moments with our son Charlie, who unfortunately won’t make his 1st birthday in just under 2 weeks’ time, and we would ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time.
Mummy and Daddy love you so much Charlie, we always have and we always will and we are so sorry that we couldn’t save you.
Sweet dreams baby. Sleep tight our beautiful little boy.
Charlie Matthew William Gard