The parents of Charlie Gard, the terminally ill British baby at the center of a medical and ethical debate, had a heated exchange with a judge on Thursday, resulting in them storming out of the courtroom.
At a preliminary hearing Monday, Connie Yates and Chris Gard were given 48 hours to submit any “new evidence” that a trial treatment could help 11-month-old Charlie, who has a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.
The Family Division of Britain’s High Court in London ruled in April that medical experimentation is not in “Charlie’s best interest,” and denied the family’s request to travel to the U.S. for the treatment.
However, the hospital decided to go back to court this week after researchers at two international healthcare facilities said they have “fresh evidence about their proposed experimental treatment.”
But the parents ended up walking out of the courtroom just two hours into the hearing after reportedly disagreeing with the judge about something they said during a previous hearing.
According to CNN, Yates interrupted Francis when he said that the parents had previously said they would not want to prolong Charlie’s life in its present state, only if there was hope of improvement.
“I never said that!” Yates reportedly exclaimed from her seat.
The judge attempted to clarify that one of the parents had said it, but both rose and left the court.
They returned to the courtroom after the lunch break.
Charlie is currently on life support and unable to move his limbs or eat or breathe without assistance. His parents want to take him to the U.S. for nucleoside therapy.
Charlie’s story has gained worldwide attention. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis have voiced their support for the parents. And on Sunday, his parents handed in a 350,000-signature petition calling for their son to travel to the U.S. for treatment.
In an emotional statement made on the couple’s behalf outside the court on Thursday, their spokesman Alisdair Seton Marsden said: “They are hoping to sway the judge to rule in favor of their son’s life by granting them permission to seek alternative treatment with medical experts specializing in the disease affecting Charlie – mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.”
Chris and Connie said in the statement: “We are continuing to spend every moment working around the clock to save our dear baby Charlie. We love him more than life itself. If he’s still fighting, then we’re still fighting.”