The Vatican has come out against the parents of terminally ill British ten-month-old Charlie Gard. Gard, who suffers from a mitochondrial disease, is dying in Great Britain’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust. Gard’s parents want to take him to the United States for experimental therapy.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled against the parents, preventing the boy from being able to travel to the United States for experimental care. The BBC ran the headline “Charlie Gard parents given more time to say goodbye to terminally ill son.”
This is a picture of the child. The child is Catholic, and was photographed holding a St. Jude medallion. St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes.
This is what the hospital had to say:
With the agreement of Charlie Gard’s parents, Great Ormond Street Hospital is issuing this statement: pic.twitter.com/acKhuPCdSo
— GOSH (@GreatOrmondSt) June 30, 2017
Here is what Pope Francis’ Vatican had to say:
“The matter of the English baby Charlie Gard and his parents has meant both pain and hope for all of us. We feel close to him, to his mother, his father, and all those who have cared for him and struggled together with him until now. For them, and for those who are called to decide their future, we raise to the Lord of Life our prayers, knowing that “in the Lord our labor will not be in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement today that recognizes above all the complexity of the situation, the heartrending pain of the parents, and the efforts of so many to determine what is best for Charlie. The Bishops’ statement also reaffirms that “we should never act with the deliberate intention to end a human life, including the removal of nutrition and hydration, so that death might be achieved” but that “we do, sometimes, however, have to recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs.”
The proper question to be raised in this and in any other unfortunately similar case is this: what are the best interests of the patient? We must do what advances the health of the patient, but we must also accept the limits of medicine and, as stated in paragraph 65 of the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, avoid aggressive medical procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results or excessively burdensome to the patient or the family. Likewise, the wishes of parents must heard and respected, but they too must be helped to understand the unique difficulty of their situation and not be left to face their painful decisions alone. If the relationship between doctor and patient (or parents as in Charlie’s case) is interfered with, everything becomes more difficult and legal action becomes a last resort, with the accompanying risk of ideological or political manipulation, which is always to be avoided, or of media sensationalism, which can be sadly superficial.
Dear Charlie, dear parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates, we are praying for you and with you.
✠ Vincenzo Paglia President
Vatican City, June 28th 2017”