Bioethics Blogs

Charlie Gard – Balancing Due Process and Patient Best Interest

In January 2017, clinicians at Great Ormond Street Hospital determined that continued life-sustaining medical treatment for Charlie Gard was not in his best interest.


Nevertheless, those clinicians continued administering that treatment for months as three levels of courts considered the issue.  Between April and June, the clinicians’ judgment was repeatedly confirmed by the UK High Court, the UK Court of Appeal, and the UK Supreme Court.

Now, the case is before the European Court of Human Rights.  Yesterday, the UK Supreme Court struggled with granting yet an additional stay pending the outcome of the ECHR proceedings.

This is not at all uncommon.  Many litigated medical futility conflicts preserve the status quo of life-sustaining treatment pending final resolution.  That regularly means that even dead patients (like Aden Hailu) are sustained for six months or longer pending adjudication.  This is a key reason that courts often recommend adjudication by ethics committees and other more nimble and responsive tribunals.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.