Doctors from the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital are claiming an experimental treatment could help Charlie Gard, and the hospital in England currently treating him will take the matter for a new court hearing on Monday.
The infant suffers from a rare degenerative brain disease, with only 16 known cases of it in the world. His damaged brain means he needs to have assistance in breathing and he has seizures from time to time.
He has brain activity, but he’s unlikely to develop sophisticated mental capacities without a way to treat the disorder, called ‘infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome’, or MDDS.
The baby’s parents were denied permission to take him to the United States for experimental therapy in a last-ditch effort to save his life after the European Court of Human Rights rejected an appeal by them to allow the move, which was opposed by Great Ormond Street Hospital, which is currently caring for Charlie.
The July 6 letter to the English hospital was from “clinicians and mitochondrial disease researchers” at the Bambino Gesù hospital, and was posted Friday on the Charlie’s Fight website, although without the signatures.
The doctors said the treatment had shown “dramatic clinical improvements” in mice and other patients with a similar genetic condition.
The letter acknowledged the treatment had not been tried with Charlie’s specific disease, and should normally be tested in mice with the same disease before being used on a human subject, but said “there is insufficient time to perform these studies.”
The Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital is considered one of the top children’s research hospitals in Italy, and treats children from all over the region.
The infant’s parents have raised nearly two million dollars to take him to the United States for experimental treatment. However, UK officials won’t allow the parents to take their baby out of the country.
Judges have ruled further treatment would “continue to cause Charlie significant harm.”
Pope Francis on Sunday expressed hope that the desire of 10-month-old Charlie Gard’s parents “to accompany and care for their own child to the end” will be respected.
“The Holy Father follows with affection and commotion the situation of Charlie Gard, and expresses his own closeness to his parents,” read a statement issued by Greg Burke, the pope’s spokesperson.
“He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”
Gard’s mother, Connie Yates, contacted the Bambino Gesù for help, and the hospital offered to allow the child to be treated in Rome.
On Tuesday, the hospital’s president, Italian lay woman Mariella Enoc, said that she’d spoken with Gard’s mother, who relayed the fact that her son wouldn’t be allowed to travel.
“I was contacted by Charlie’s mother,” Enoc said. “She’s a very determined and very decisive woman, who doesn’t want to give in to anything. She asked [us] to try to explore the possibility that we could offer care, and our doctors and scientists are studying the possibility.”
The Great Ormond Street Hospital acknowledged on Friday that two international hospitals and their researchers have submitted fresh evidence about proposed experimental treatment.
“We believe, in common with Charlie’s parents, it is right to explore this evidence,” the hospital said in a statement, but at the same time said it is currently bound by the court decision to remove the baby’s ventilator.
The hospital said it has applied to the High Court for a new hearing “in light of claims of new evidence relating to potential treatment for his condition.”
The matter is expected to be heard at the London court on Monday.