UPDATE: Pope Francis is praying for Charlie Gard, the critically ill baby who is hospitalized in Britain, and the 11-month-old boy's parents.
The Vatican also said in statement Monday evening that Francis "feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering."
Francis, who had previously expressed support for the parents in their bid to seek an experimental medical treatment for their son's rare genetic condition, also asked the faithful to join him in prayer so the baby's parents "may find God's consolation and love."
A spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales expressed deepest sympathy and prayers for the family. In a statement, the bishops said “at this moment it is important to remember that all involved in these agonizing decisions have sought to act with integrity and for Charlie’s good as they see it.”
Calling for Charlie’s parents to be given support and space “to find peace in the days ahead,” the bishops said: “Their farewell to their tiny and precious baby touches the hearts of all who, like Pope Francis, have followed this sad and complex story. Charlie’s life will be lovingly cherished until its natural end.”
The bishops added that “the professionalism, love and care for severely ill children consistently shown at the Great Ormond Street Hospital is also to be recognised and applauded.”
The Gard family’s lawyer said that Charlie’s father and mother would hold talks with doctors at the hospital about how to end the baby’s life-support treatment. Charlie was born with a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.
LONDON (AP)—The parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard dropped their legal bid Monday to send him to the United States for an experimental treatment after new medical tests showed that the window of opportunity to help him had closed.
Chris Gard and Connie Yates wept as they withdrew their appeal during a London High Court hearing, signaling the end of a legal saga that had stretched for months. The couple's attorney, Grant Armstrong, said recent medical tests on 11-month-old Charlie showed the baby has irreversible muscular damage, and the new treatment wouldn't help.
"It's too late for Charlie," Armstrong said. "The damage has been done."
Armstrong said the news had left Charlie's parents extremely distressed and they now "wish to spend the maximum amount of time they have left with Charlie."
Charlie has a rare genetic condition, and his parents wanted him to receive an experimental treatment in the U.S.
Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London had argued that the treatment wouldn't help and could cause the child pain, so they challenged the parent's wish. The hospital wanted to switch off his life support and allow Charlie to die peacefully.
The case won international attention after Charlie's parents received support from Pope Francis, U.S. President Donald Trump and some U.S. lawmakers. Some U.S.-based activists also travelled to London to support Charlie's parents.
Some commentators have portrayed the case as a clash between a family and the state, and some U.S. conservatives have used it to criticize Britain's state-funded health care system—even though the case has never been about money.
Judge Nicholas Francis said the crux of the matter was that "in this country, children have rights independent of their parents." While parents usually decide what is best for their children, in some cases hospitals and parents disagree, he said.
The judge condemned the abuse and threats directed at the hospital, doctors and nurses treating Charlie, but stressed these had nothing to do with the boy's parents.
The judge had scheduled a two-day hearing to consider fresh evidence after Dr. Michio Hirano, an American neurology expert from Columbia Medical Center in New York, came to London to examine the child. But Armstrong said nothing further could be done and that it was "worthy of a Greek tragedy" that they had to withdraw their appeal just as they were about to present new evidence to the court.
The judge paid tribute to the infant's parents, saying it was impossible to comprehend the agony they faced.
"No parent could have done more for their child," he said.