Best interests determination: Ventilation withdrawal or innovative treatment

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children -v- Gard [2017] EWHC 972 (Fam) is an inherent (protective) jurisdiction decision (EWHC), for which only a press summary was initially available pending publication of the judgment. The reasons for judgment are now available.

The application concerned the withdrawal of ventilation (as sought by the clinicians) or the provision of innovative nucleoside therapy in the USA (as sought by the parents)  for an 8 month old child, Charlie Gard. The  parents of Charlie had apparently raised a large sum by crowdfunding, to enable the treatment.

The press summary indicates:

The GOSH team believe that Charlie can probably experience pain, but is unable to react to it in a meaningful way. Their evidence was that being ventilated, being suctioned, living as Charlie does, are all capable of causing pain. Transporting Charlie to the USA would be problematic, but possible. Subjecting him to nucleoside therapy is unknown territory, for it has never even been tested even on mouse models, but it may (or may not) subject the patient to pain, possibly even to mutations. But if Charlie’s damaged brain function cannot be improved, as all agree, then how can he be any better off than he is now, which is a condition that his parents believe should not be sustained?

It is with the heaviest of hearts, but with complete conviction for Charlie’s best interests, that I find it is in Charlie’s best interests that I accede to these applications and rule that GOSH may lawfully withdraw all treatment save for palliative care to permit Charlie to die with dignity.

With thanks to Julie Brooke-Cowden for drawing my attention to this decision.