Statement on baby Charlie Gard and his life-support treatment

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Statement from Archbishop Peter Smith, Chairman of the Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, regarding the medical treatment of baby Charlie Gard.

The tragic situation of baby Charlie Gard is truly heartrending, not least, of course, for his parents and family. Those responsible for his medical care in the UK believe they have done all they can to help him. It is completely understandable, nonetheless, that his parents should also want to pursue every possible chance of extending his life, even when this carries no guarantee of success and would require transfer to the United States. In this, both sides are seeking to act with integrity and for Charlie’s good as they see it. Parental love will so often want to take every possible extra step and this we support.

Where medical treatment becomes disproportionate to any possible benefit, proper palliative care for a sick person must be maintained. Such care must include the provision of nutrition and hydration which is neither treatment nor medicine, unless this itself becomes overly burdensome. Sadly, prolonged terminal illness is part of the human condition. We should never act with the deliberate intention to end a human life, including the removal of nutrition and hydration so that death might be achieved. We do, sometimes, however, have to recognise the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs. Our heartfelt prayers and support are with baby Charlie and his parents and family, as well as with those caring for him.

Archbishop Peter Smith
Chairman, Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship