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Treatment withdrawal: Should a child's parents or the court decide?

As news breaks that the Supreme Court will hear an appeal by Charlie Gard’s parents, David Lawson examines the principles behind the best interests test

6 June 2017

Charlie Gard has a rare genetic mitochondrial illness affecting in particular his brain, muscles, and ability to breathe. In October 2016, within two months of being born, he was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital experiencing lethargy and shallow breathing.

In December 2016, Charlie’s mother heard about a new treatment being administered to a child at a reputable medical centre in the US. Great Ormond Street contacted the US team and was told there was no direct evidence about the efficacy of this treatment for someone with Charlie’s condition but ‘theoretical and anecdotal evidence’ that it might help.

In January 2017, an application was made to the ethics committee for the treatment to be trialled in the UK. However, during January a very serious deterioration of Charlie’s condition led doctors to conclude that further treatment would b...

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