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Parents of sick UK infant storm out of new court hearing

Associated Press logoAssociated Press 7/13/2017 By CAROLINE SPIEZIO, Associated Press
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Video by CBS News

LONDON — The parents of a baby with a rare disease stormed out of a London court hearing in an emotional outburst on Thursday, as the couple tried to persuade a judge to let them take their critically-ill child to the United States for medical treatment.

Charlie Gard's parents are challenging the view of Britain's most famous children's hospital, arguing that treatment abroad is in the best interest of the 11-month-old suffering from a rare genetic condition.

A succession of judges has backed specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who argue experimental treatment in America won't help and may cause suffering for Charlie. The parents hoped to present fresh evidence to alter that view.

Two hours into the High Court hearing, questions from Judge Nicholas Francis prompted tensions to boil over. Charlie's mother, Connie Yates, accused Francis of misquoting her earlier statements about Charlie's quality of life.

"We said he's not suffering and not in pain," Yates yelled. "If he was we wouldn't be up here fighting."

Chris Gard then slammed his water cup down and the couple left the courtroom.

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 parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Thursday. © 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 on Thursday. Charlie suffers from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare genetic disease that has left him brain damaged and unable to breathe unaided. The hospital says there is no known cure and believes his life support systems should be turned off.

The parents want to try — but it isn't up to them.

British judges are tasked to intervene when families and doctors disagree on the treatment of people unable to speak for themselves. The rights of the child take primacy, with the courts weighing issues such as whether a child is suffering and how much benefit a proposed treatment might produce.

"Unlike the USA, English law is focused on the protection of children's rights," said Jonathan Montgomery, professor of health care law at University College London. "The USA is the only country in the world that is not party to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child; it does not recognize that children have rights independent of their parents."

Montgomery said that while it was right to consider the views of Charlie's parents, the court will not make a determination on this basis.

"This case is about Charlie's rights and what the evidence tells us that they require," he said. "That will be the only consideration of the judge at the hearing."

Francis, who ruled in favor of doctors in April, says he will consider any new evidence. The courtroom was packed as Francis heard arguments on differences of medical opinion.

"We are continuing to spend every moment, working around the clock to save our dear baby Charlie," the couple said in a statement before the hearing. "We've been requesting this specialized treatment since November, and never asked the hospital, courts or anyone for anything — except for the permission to go."

Charlie Gard suffers from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare, incurable condition. © Family of Charlie Gard Charlie Gard suffers from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare, incurable condition. Britain's Supreme Court has ruled it's in the boy's best interests to be allowed to die with dignity. The European Court of Human Rights rejected an appeal from the parents, which briefly stalled their legal options.

But days afterward, President Donald Trump and Pope Francis gave the parents new hope by shining an international spotlight on the ethical debate.

Pope Francis issued a statement insisting on the need to respect the wishes of the parents to "accompany and treat" their son to the very end.

Americans United for Life and other groups have seized upon the case, arguing the infant needs a "chance at life." Petitions have circulated to offer support and others have arrived at Charlie's bedside to pray.

A decision is not expected Thursday.

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