The government lawyer appointed to represent Charlie Gard’s interests is the chairman of an organization tied to the assisted suicide movement, new information revealed Monday.
Gard’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, raised concerns over what they say is a deep conflict of interest in their child’s case, as Gard’s court-appointed guardian, Victoria Butler-Cole, is the chairman of Compassion in Dying (CID). While CID does not directly advocate for assisted suicide, it is a sister organization of Dignity in Dying (DID), formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, which seeks to advance assisted suicide.
Both CID and DID share the same chief executive, Sarah Wootton, despite their alleged differences, and trustees like Butler-Cole are only permitted to serve on the board of one organization so long as they support the goals of both, according to The Telegraph.
Cafcass, a government-funded body that allegedly acts on behalf of the best interests of children in U.K. legal cases, appointed Butler-Cole to her role in Gard’s case.
“The family find 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,” a friend of Gard’s parents told the Telegraph. “The implication is obvious. It looks like a profound conflict of interest.”
A spokesman for CID said there is no conflict of interest, claiming that Butler-Cole’s efforts in Gard’s case have nothing to do with advancing the legalization of assisted suicide.
“There are clear differences between this case, the work of Dignity in Dying and the work of Compassion in Dying,” the spokesman told The Telegraph. “The Charlie Gard case is about making decisions in the best interests of a seriously ill child.”
Butler-Cole’s efforts thus far in Gard’s case demonstrate, however, that the conflict of interest is not merely an issue of perception. Butler-Cole has backed The Great Ormond Street Hospital’s (GOSH) claim that Gard should be taken off life support since Gard’s case first went to trial. Butler-Cole, GOSH, and the U.K. High Court have all argued that Gard should “die with dignity,” prior to and during this new trial, and be refused the potentially life-saving treatment offered by Dr. Michio Hirano of Columbia University.
The state effectively acts as parent to Gard in the U.K.’s legal system, as 11-month-old Gard is represented not by his parents, but by the court appointed guardian, Butler-Cole.
Butler-Cole also demanded that the court block Gard’s parents from attending the meeting of international medical experts that began examining Gard for potential treatment options Monday.
Despite Hirano’s expert opinion and the evidence brought forth by two international hospitals corroborating his claims, Butler-Cole has argued that death is the best and only option for Gard. GOSH has backed Butler-Cole’s position, which was supported not only by the London Supreme Court, but also by the European Human Court of Human Rights in Gard’s initial trial.
Justice Francis, presiding over Gard’s new case, said that he would consider overturning his initial ruling if “new and powerful” evidence for Gard’s potential improvement was brought forward.
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