Last Friday evening one of the most controversial ethical debates of recent years came to a heart-breaking, but by then inevitable, conclusion. Charlie Gard, the terminally ill baby who had become the centre of a drawn-out legal battle, died just days from his first birthday.
Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) had argued it was no longer in Charlie’s best interests to continue artificial ventilation. His parents disagreed, saying their child had a chance of survival if he could undergo an experimental treatment in the United States.
The story gathered global media interest, with Pope Francis and Donald Trump joining the many interventions.
Catholics have appeared divided over the case, however, with some saying the hospital made the right call and others accusing it of violating fundamental parental rights.
Nowhere was this division more apparent than at the top of the Church. In June the Pontifical Academy for Life appeared to side with the hospital, saying that while the interests of the patient were paramount, “we must also accept the limits of medicine and … avoid aggressive medical procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results or excessively burdensome to the patient or the family”.
The statement generated a considerable amount of criticism and, days later, Pope Francis offered a different message. The Vatican press office said: “The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the case of little Charlie Gard and expresses his own closeness to his parents. For them he prays, hoping that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end is not ignored.”
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