Well, he’s alive. It’s impossible to be provocative about this. It remains a tragedy. But there has been an unexpected twist. World-famous hospital, Great Ormond Street, known as GOSH in the UK, has applied for permission to provide experimental treatment to the baby, Charlie Gard.
The reason this is unexpected is that GOSH are themselves the hallowed institution that said there was zero prospect of any improvement in baby Charlie’s condition. That’s right, the hospital now being lined up as the knight in shining armour is the same one that signed his death certificate only days earlier. This is an almighty balls-up. GOSH’s reputation is in ruins.
Has there been a revolution in medical science in the last week? Of course not. So what changed?
Well, several things. However, the one thing being cited as the reason for the new court hearing is this: some data has been found under a sofa somewhere that suggests this notorious experimental treatment might possibly yield some minor benefits. Might, some, minor. If you multiply those together you get: zero chance.
So that can’t be the real reason.
No, the real reason is very dark. First of all, the Vatican said they would help. So, on the one hand we have some religious extremists suggesting they can reverse all of modern medicine, save the baby and win a few new saints. Unlikely to help, and it was rebuffed.
Then, and I’m afraid to say it, but in walked Trump. The well-known champion of children and minority rights. In walks the POTUS, and America goes into overdrive.
A New York hospital spies its opportunity. Cuddle up to Trump, get hold of a human guinea pig for its amazing treatment, save a poor little British kid, and ride off into the sunset. This treatment, just to remind you, is not even licensed in the US for US citizens. And we all know that the US is perfectly happy to offer a lower standard of protection to foreign nationals not living on its soil.
That’s right folks, this drug has not even been tested on mice. If you’re at all interested – and it is very complex – the treatment exploits nucleosides.
It is impossible to see this new development as anything more than weak, cynical bum coverage. If it turns out that the new data reveals that nucleoside treatment will have little Charlie springing up from bed and shouting “I’m alive!” in a couple of weeks, every single international expert in the condition will be doomed. This will not happen. The benefits, if they happen, will be minor indeed. Nobody is suggesting it will even enable Charlie to breathe unaided.
And don’t think for a moment that the parents have won anything. Yes, they want to give their child every chance. That is their role in this pantomime. But this is delaying the inevitable. Not, sadly, to look after the baby’s interests, but to protect the hospital. What would happen if Charlie died untreated, and the data showed that in fact he would have been totally cured? Disaster for GOSH. With its centuries of heady reputation in ruins. Even lower than its current low status.
The stakes are too high for the bean counters. And so, as all bean counters do, they have folded. They are no longer protecting their patient. They are protecting themselves. And it stinks.