United Kingdom

Charlie Gard hospital says staff have received death threats over infant's case

The London hospital treating terminally ill baby Charlie Gard said Saturday that its staffers have received death threats amid an ongoing court case to determine whether the boy should receive experimental treatment in the U.S.

Great Ormond Hospital said that its doctors and nurses have faced "a shocking and disgraceful tide of hostility," while families visiting other patients have been "harassed and discomforted."'

Hospital Chairman Mary MacLeod said in a statement that she had contacted police about the messages and warned "will do everything possible to hold to account anybody who involved in this kind of deplorable behaviour."

Alasdair Seton-Marsden, a spokesman for the Gard Family, told Sky News later the hospital should explain the threats.

"It is arguably a cynical ploy. Ormond Street are now employing a very expensive PR,” he said. “…Our understanding is that any threats that had been made had died down. I would urge Great Ormond Street to go public and explain what these threats are.”

The hospital has been locked in a prolonged court battle with the parents of Charlie, a 11-month-old who suffers from a rare mitochondrial disease. Great Ormond Street's doctors say Charlie has suffered irreversible brain damage and further treatment would cause undue suffering, a claim Chris Gard and Connie Yates dispute.

They believe the treatment, which has never been tested on a human with Charlie's exact condition, could restore his muscular and brain functions. The parents have received expressions of support from Pope Francis, U.S. President Donald Trump and some members of the U.S. Congress.

On Friday, Charlie's parents were told by a hospital lawyer that the infant's latest brain scans make for "sad reading." Chris Gard responded by yelling "Evil!" at lawyer Katie Gollop as Connie Yates began to cry. The parents said at the hearing it was the first time they were being told about the latest results in the crucial test of Charlie's brain function.

Meetings were also held this week with Charlie's mother, doctors treating Charlie at Great Ormond Street Hospital and American specialist Dr. Michio Hirano, an American neurology expert from Columbia Medical Center in New York who has designed the experimental treatment.

Previous courts, including the European Court of Human Rights, have sided with the hospital. Judge Nicholas Francis, who has overseen the latest round of appearances at London's High Court, said in Friday's hearing that Hirano and Charlie's parents could present evidence at a hearing Monday. He said the evidence must be new and relevant to the case.

Francis is expected to issue a final ruling Tuesday. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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