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Charlie Gard's parents angry that baby's lawyer is head of charity that backs assisted dying

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 17/07/2017 By Robert Mendick, Chief Reporter

© PA Charlie Gard's parents have privately expressed their concern after discovering that the lawyer appointed to represent their 11-month-old son in court heads a charity that backs assisted dying.

Victoria Butler-Cole, who speaks on Charlie’s behalf in court, is chairman of Compassion in Dying, a sister organisation to Dignity in Dying which campaigns for a change in the law to make assisted dying legal in the UK. Dignity in Dying used to be called the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

The two charities share the same chief executive and media team and trustees – such as Mrs Butler-Cole – can only sit on one charity if they support the aims of the other. Mrs Butler-Cole was appointed to the role by the publicly-funded state body Cafcass which acts in the best interests of children in court cases.

Related video: US doctor to examine British baby Charlie Gard (Provided by Wochit)

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Connie Yates and Chris Gard, from Bedfont, in west London, believe they, as his parents, should speak for Charlie in court hearings that are deciding his fate. They don’t believe their son should have a guardian representing him in court.

Charlie suffers from a rare genetic condition that has left him severely disabled and suffering brain damage.

Great Ormond Street Hospital is seeking to switch off his life support machine and has been backed in court by Charlie’s state-appointed guardian, represented by Mrs Butler-Cole.

Related gallery: The case of Charlie Gard (Provided by Reuters)

  Charlie Gard's parents Connie Yates and Chris Gard leave after a hearing at the High Court in London, Britain July 10, 2017. The case of Charlie Gard

A source close to the parents told The Daily Telegraph: “The family find it astonishing that the quango that appointed the barrister to act in the interests of Charlie Gard is the chairman of Compassion in Dying, the sister body of Dignity in Dying, formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. The implication is obvious. It looks like a profound conflict of interest.”

Mrs Butler-Cole said she was unable to comment while the High Court case was ongoing.

Today Dr Michio Hirano, an American neurosurgeon, who claims to have pioneered an experimental treatment he says can help Charlie, will examine the boy after flying in from New York.

The parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard, Connie Yates and Chris Gard arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Thursday July 13, 2017. The parents Charlie Gard who has a rare disease returned to a court in London on Thursday, hoping for a fresh analysis of their wish to take the critically ill child to the United States for medical treatment. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP) © The Associated Press The parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard, Connie Yates and Chris Gard arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Thursday July 13, 2017. The parents Charlie Gard who has a rare disease returned to a court in London on Thursday, hoping for a fresh analysis of their wish to take the critically ill child to the United States for medical treatment. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP) Compassion in Dying said it was wrong to suggest there was any conflict of interest between Mrs Butler-Cole’s role in representing Charlie’s guardian in court and her view that adults with full mental capacity should be allowed to plan their own death.

A charity spokesman said: “There are clear differences between this case, the work of Dignity in Dying and the work of Compassion in Dying. The Charlie Gard case is about making decisions in the best interests of a seriously ill child.”

The High Court ruled in April that Charlie should be allowed to “die with dignity”, a decision confirmed by the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

But Great Ormond Street referred the case back to the High Court after Dr Hirano, backed by other experts, claimed the ground-breaking therapy might help Charlie.

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