LONDON (AP) — The parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard wept as they dropped their legal bid Monday to send him to the United States for an experimental medical treatment, acknowledging that the window of opportunity to help him had closed.
Charlie's mother, Connie Yates, hugged her husband Chris Gard as they described their decision to "let our son go." Recent medical tests on 11-month-old Charlie showed that the baby has irreversible muscular damage, and the new treatment wouldn't help.
"Mummy and Daddy love you so much, Charlie. We always have and we always will. And we are so sorry that we couldn't save you," Yates said as she wept during the hearing. "We had the chance but we weren't allowed to give you that chance."
Chris Gard said too much time was spent in court battles, wasting the chance to help Charlie. Both parents paid tribute to their "warrior son."
"We will let our son go, and be with the angels," Yates said.
Charlie has a rare genetic condition, and his parents wanted him to receive an experimental treatment in the U.S.
Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London had argued that the treatment wouldn't help and could cause the child pain, so they challenged the parent's wishes. The hospital wanted to switch off his life support and allow Charlie to die peacefully.
The case won international attention after Charlie's parents received support from Pope Francis, U.S. President Donald Trump and some U.S. lawmakers. Some U.S.-based activists also travelled to London to support Charlie's parents.
Some commentators have portrayed the case as a clash between a family and the state, and some U.S. conservatives have used it to criticize Britain's state-funded health care system — even though the case has never been about money.
Judge Nicholas Francis said the crux of the matter was that "in this country, children have rights independent of their parents." While parents usually decide what is best for their children, in some cases hospitals and parents disagree, he said.
The judge condemned all the abuses and threats that have been directed at the hospital, doctors and nurses treating Charlie, but stressed these had nothing to do with the boy's parents.
The judge had scheduled a two-day hearing to consider fresh evidence after Dr. Michio Hirano, an American neurology expert from Columbia Medical Center in New York, came to London to examine the child. But Armstrong said nothing further could be done and that it was "worthy of a Greek tragedy" that they had to withdraw their appeal just as they were about to present new evidence to the court.
The judge paid tribute to the infant's parents, saying it was impossible to comprehend the agony they faced.
"No parent could have done more for their child," he said.
The couple's attorney, Grant Armstrong said the news had left Charlie's parents extremely distressed and now they "wish to spend the maximum amount of time they have left with Charlie."
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Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka contributed to this story.