Charlie Gard’s Parents: ‘Disgraceful That Doctors Have Received Death Threats’

By Patrick Goodenough | July 23, 2017 | 9:42 PM EDT

Charlie Gard, pictured with his mother Connie Yates, has a rare genetic condition. (Photo: Charlie Gard GoFundMe page)

(Update: Press reports on  Monday said Charlie Gard's parents have ended their six-month legal battle to get their baby son treatment in the United States. Tests show Charlie's brain damage is irreversible, so they have decided not to let him suffer.

Connie Yates, Charlie's mother said in a statement, "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.")

( – Charlie Gard’s parents on Sunday disavowed any abuse and death threats directed at staff at the hospital where he is being treated, and said that they, too, had faced vicious criticism from people who disagree with their fight to secure experimental treatment in the U.S. for their severely ill baby.

The case in Britain, which has drawn attention around the world, is set to continue before a High Court judge in London on Monday, as U.S. lawmakers press for a quick vote in the House of Representatives on an amendment offering U.S. residency to Charlie and his parents.

London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital has argued that 11-month-old Charlie, who has a rare genetic condition and brain damage and is on life support, should be allowed to die. His parents have fought a so-far unsuccessful legal battle against that decision.

As a pivotal court ruling in the emotive case nears, the hospital revealed on Sunday that its staff have faced what its chairman, Mary MacLeod, called “a shocking and disgraceful tide of hostility and disturbance,” with doctors and nurses having received “thousands of abusive messages” including death threats.

Even families of other sick children at the hospital have been affected, MacLeod said.

“Whatever the strong emotions raised by this case, there can be no excuse for patients and families to have their privacy and peace disturbed as they deal with their own often very stressful situations, or for dedicated doctors and nurses to suffer this kind of abuse.”

In a subsequent response Charlie’s parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, said the hospital’s statement had sparked a “backlash” against them, and disclosing that they have been on the receiving end of “the most hurtful comments” and would have appreciated it if the hospital had spoken out against that as well.

“We do not and have not ever condoned any threatening or abusive remarks towards any staff member at GOSH,” said Yates.

“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.”

“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,” she added.

Chris Gard told media outlets that he and Yates “are very grateful to the staff for the care of our son. Without the excellent care of the doctors at GOSH our son would not even be alive and not a day goes by when we don’t remember that.”

“We also know what a devastating place this can be for upset and anxious parents and we are constantly mindful that they have enough on their plate without hearing about our problems too.’

A small group of protestors held a rally and prayer vigil outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Sunday, supporting the couple’s wishes to take Charlie to the U.S. for treatment.

“This is a historic case on a global level, because it really gets to the role of parents and the influence they have on making decisions for their children,” Pastor Patrick Mahoney of Church on the Hill in D.C., one of those gathered, said in a video clip.

“Will a court, will government bureaucrats, will hospital officials make decisions for parents or will they be allowed to make them?”

In the latest in a series of court hearings, a judge is considering evidence from a neurology specialist at Columbia University Medical Center who has argued that trial therapy he could provide in the U.S. offers a ten percent chance of improving Charlie’s condition.

The same judge, Justice Nicholas Francis, ruled last April in favor of the hospital.

The hearing is expected to continue on Monday and Tuesday, when Francis may deliver a final decision.

The House Appropriations Committee a week ago approved an amendment to the FY 2018 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill granting lawful permanent residence to Charlie and his parents – who have raised more than $1.7 million for the treatment via a crowdfunding website.

Dozens of lawmakers have signed a letter to House leaders appealing for a vote on the measure before Congress goes into recess at the end of this month.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow