One of the most extraordinary aspects of the Charlie Gard story is the way in which it has attracted global attention, and such widespread sympathy and support.

The 11-month-old little boy suffers from a rare genetic condition, and has been on life support at London’s famed Great Ormond Street Hospital. His deteriorating condition means he has suffered from brain damage, as well as problems with his liver, kidneys and heart, and he has been unable to breathe on his own.

The medical experts were in agreement that nothing more could be done for little Charlie, and he should be allowed to die. Nature should take its course. This was backed by the courts.

And yet, the picture of one small baby, along with his young parents, Connie and Chris, still clinging to hope, seemed to go around the world like Ariel, prompting a wave of sympathy, including from Pope Francis. Some 350,000 people signed a petition to allow Charlie to go to the United States for a last-ditch treatment, and an American pastor with a reputation for campaigning, Patrick Mahoney, took up Charlie’s cause.

It’s been a poignant case, and there are complex layers of issues around it. Do parents – or the courts – have the final say on whether a child’s life may be prolonged?

Doctors, too, like to exercise their own control and affirm their own expertise. They don’t always like the suggestion that another bunch of medics might be more successful. And is experimental treatment always the kindest option?

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