Between scathing attacks on the “Morning Joe” hosts, Trump’s Twitter took on a quality with which his followers are likely unfamiliar: empathy. The tweet left many Americans wondering, “Who is Charlie Gard and why does Trump care so much?”
“If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so,” the Trump Twitter post read. The little Charlie Gard in question is a terminally ill infant and the subject of a heated debate that was, until recently, going on primarily across the pond.
If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2017
Who is Charlie Gard?
Little Charlie Gard is the 11-month-old son of Connie Yates and Chris Gard. The tiny tot is very sick, and a battle has been raging in the UK High Court over treatment for his rare genetic disorder. The back and forth between the parents and the hospital over treatment hasn’t gotten much attention in the U.S. until recently, when President Trump stepped into the discussion over Twitter.
Charlie Gard has mitochondrial depletion syndrome
What is mitochondrial depletion syndrome? Simply put, it’s a rare genetic disorder that causes things like muscle weakness, organ dysfunction and brain damage. That means he cannot move on his own. He cannot breathe on his own. He has been on life support practically his entire life. The condition is caused by a genetic mutation, and most patients have a poor prognosis. Both of Charlie’s parents were unknowingly carrying the gene, reported The Sun.
The hospital and Charlie Gard’s parents disagreed on how to proceed
Doctors treating Charlie Gard say he’s not going to get better. And since there’s no real chance for recovery of any kind, they want to take him off of life support. His parents, understandably, disagree and want to try any treatment available, even if they are experimental. When there’s a disagreement over the medical treatment of a child, the hospital can ask the court to weigh in under British law — and they did just that.
The disagreement has gone through multiple courts, including the European Court of Human Rights, all of which have sided with the hospital. A main point in their decision: That keeping Charlie Gard on life support, in the face of expert opinion that he will not improve, only prolongs his suffering.
The Pope wants Charlie Gard to get treatment
The director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, issued a statement Sunday saying: “The Holy Father is following with affection and emotion the situation of little Charlie Gard and expresses his closeness to his parents. He is praying for them, in the hope that their desire to accompany and care for their own child until the end will be respected.” Since then, the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has said that it is impossible for Charlie Gard to be transported from the UK to the Vatican children’s hospital for legal reasons.
Donald Trump then stepped in for Charlie Gard
After the Pontiff weighed in on the issue, Trump took to Twitter, bringing the debate to the U.S.
The president claimed a vague “we” would be delighted to help Charlie Gard, and according to The Guardian, an undisclosed hospital has volunteered to treat the tot for free in the U.S. British Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that she knows the family is in an “unimaginable situation,” though ultimately voiced faith in the hospital, saying she is “confident” that Great Ormond Street Hospital “have, and always will, consider any offers or new information that has come forward with consideration of the well-being of a desperately ill child.”
People are raising money for Charlie Gard, but it won’t go to his treatment
Connie Yates, Charlie Gard’s mother, started a GoFundMe account where people have been donating to help the terminally ill child. The fund, also tagged #CharliesFight, has surpassed its goal of raising 1.3 million pounds — or approximately $1.6 million. The account claims that Charlie Gard is one of only 16 reported cases of this rare genetic condition in the world. The treatment they are seeking in America has not been tried on anyone with his specific genetic condition before, though the GoFundMe page claims that “it’s had success with another mitochondrial depletion syndrome called TK2 which is similar.”
Since the judges on the European Court for Human Rights rejected the parents’ plea to intervene and allow them to take the child away for treatment, it’s unclear how the money raised will be used. In a deleted post to the GoFundMe page, the couple previously wrote that they would “like to save other babies and children because these medications have been proven to work.” They reiterated their belief in the treatments and added that “if Charlie doesn’t get this chance, we will make sure that other innocent babies and children will be saved.”
So what’s going to happen to Charlie Gard?
The European Court for Human Rights’ decision means the Great Ormond Street Hospital can and will turn off Charlie Gard’s life support. The hospital “said there would be ‘no rush’ to change Charlie’s care at present though as its priority was to support his parents in the next steps,” the BBC reports.