The parents of Charlie Gard, the 11 month-old baby who is dying of a mitochondrial disease in a London hospital, were horrified to learn that the court appointed lawyer who has been representing their son in court is the chairman of the pro-euthanasia group, Compassion in Dying. The Mirror is reporting on the news that Victoria Butler-Cole, who speaks on Charlie’s behalf in court, is chairman of the organization that is actively campaigning to make assisted suicide legal in the UK. Compassion in Dying is a sister organization to Dignity in Dying which used to be called the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.
Mrs. Butler-Cole was appointed to serve as Charlie’s spokesperson by publicly funded state body known as the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, or CAFCASS.
A source close to the parents told The Daily Telegraph: “The family finds it astonishing that the quango that appointed the barrister to act in the interests of Charlie Gard is the chairman of Compassion in Dying, the sister body of Dignity in Dying, formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. The implication is obvious. It looks like a profound conflict of interest.”
The parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, from Bedfont in West London, want to speak for their son in court hearings as they desperately fight for the right to seek an experimental therapy for their son who suffers from a rare form of mitochondrial depletion syndrome. He is currently unable to move, see, or hear, and is on life support in the Great Ormond Street Hospital where administrators say he should be allowed to die naturally.
However, an expert in the field of mitochondrial diseases, Dr. Michio Hirano, a neurologist from Columbia University Medical Center in New York, believes a new treatment, known as nucleoside therapy, could help Charlie. Dr. Hirano is currently in London where he examined Charlie yesterday and met with other clinicians to determine just how effective the treatment might be. He is expected to present his findings to the judge who promised to render a decision on July 25 about whether or not the parents should be allowed to seek further treatment or if the hospital should be permitted to discontinue his life support.
News of the lawyer’s affiliation with an organization that promotes assisted suicide has caused consternation among the boy’s parents and the worldwide community now known as “Charlie’s Army” that has been avidly following the case in support of the boy’s parents.
For this reason, a spokesman for Compassion in Dying told the press: “There are clear differences between this case, the work of Dignity In Dying and the work of Compassion In Dying. The Charlie Gard case is about making decisions in the best interests of a seriously ill child.”
The public isn’t buying it, however.
Several people who left comments on the Mirror article voiced their skepticism of the lawyer, CAFCASS, and the court system that appointed her to such a delicate case.
“To now discover that the agency that selected Charlie’s ‘guardian’ is the same agency that selected an euthanasia activist as that guardian’s lawyer would horrify any parent who was fighting a hospital to stop it from killing their child!” writes a man named Roland. “We also need to know whether CAFCASS or the individual guardian selected the lawyer.”
He is calling for the agency, CAFCASS, to be investigated to learn the extent of any pro-euthanasia bias and whether other children’s lives have been affected by any such bias.
Another commenter, named Jan, writes: “While I appreciate that the woman could frankly do her job with the impartiality and integrity of a saint with no bias whatsoever, unfortunately that’s not the way the world works. Justice must be done and it must be seen to be done. This means it needs to be done properly with any conflicts kept to an absolute minimum.”
Butler-Cole’s association with Compassion in Dying should have been stated up-front, she says, and believes an alternative lawyer should be appointed as soon as possible.
As of this writing, Butler-Cole remains on the case and says she will not make any public comments while the High Court is continuing its deliberations.
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