ROME – After publicly volunteering to care for UK infant Charlie Gard, whose parents were denied permission to take him to the United States for experimental therapy in a last-ditch effort to save his life, an official of the pope’s pediatric hospital in Rome said Tuesday that the parents have informed her that doctors won’t allow them to do that either for legal reasons.
In brief comments to reporters, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, added on Tuesday that “I think it’s a problem of nationality,” referring to the refusal for travel, and that “the Holy See will do anything possible, and if it can help, it will.”
Speaking with journalists at the Bambino Gesù Hospital (“Baby Jesus” in English) awaiting a financial report on the 2016 fiscal year, the institution’s president, Italian lay woman Mariella Enoc, said that she’s 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.”
Gard’s mother is named Connie Yates. She gave birth to her child on August 4, 2016. At the time he was perfectly healthy, but soon started to decline.
“The hospital told us that, for legal reasons, the baby can’t be transferred to us. That’s one more sad note,” Enoc said. “We listened to what the mother asked us with great attention, and she’s determined to fight to the end. I don’t know if it will be possible to find a means of care,” she said, but “our scientists are exploring the issue and will speak directly to the family.”
Bambino Gesù, she said, “will continue to respond to the accompaniment of the baby and the parents regarding the decision to pull or not pull the plug, eventually also explaining the situation.
“In life, there are gray zones,” Enoc said. “In this case, it’s very difficult to say if this is suffering by therapy or not. In this gray zone, I stand by the judgment and do the only thing I can, which is to say, we’ll welcome the family and accompany them as the pope asked.”
Bambino Gesù Hospital put out a statement on Monday, saying that Enoc had instructed the hospital’s health director to ask London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital if the terminally ill 10-month-old Gard could be moved.
“We know that it is a desperate case, and that there are no effective therapies,” Enoc said in a statement. “We are close to the parents in prayer and, if this is their desire, willing to take their child, for the time he has left to live.”
Enoc said Pope Francis’s words on the Gard case summed up her hospital’s mission. Those words came on Friday, when, on Twitter, he said: “To defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all men.”
The following day, papal spokesman Greg Burke retweeted it with the following addition: #CharlieGard. On Sunday, Burke released a statement, saying that Pope Francis had expressed hope that the desire of the baby’s parents “to accompany and care for their own child to the end” will be respected.
The European Court of Human Rights has rejected an appeal filed by the parents to enable Gard, who suffers from a rare genetic condition and has brain damage from which he is not expected to recover, to undergo treatment in the U.S.
Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital were scheduled to take him off life support on Friday, but then extended their deadline at the parents’ request, who had lost their last legal battle the day before.
The Gard case has stirred wide international interest, with U.S. President Donald Trump tweeting out on Monday, “If we can help little #CharlieGard, like our friends in the UK and the Pope, we would be happy to do so.”
In recent days, Bambino Gesù has also been under fire for alleged financial irregularities that emphasized profits over children’s health, which officials have vigorously denied.
Claire Giangravé of Crux in Rome contributed to this report.