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Amendment to give Charlie Gard residency in the U.S. clears House committee

 (Family of Charlie Gard)
(Family of Charlie Gard)

A congressional committee has taken a step toward granting a terminally ill British baby residency in the United States so he can receive experimental treatment.

The House Committee on Appropriations voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an amendment introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) that would grant permanent residency to 11-month-old Charlie Gard and his parents, who have waged a lengthy court battle to prevent a London hospital from withdrawing life support.

The case has drawn intense media scrutiny in Britain, and some outlets reported Wednesday that the committee vote means Charlie could soon be on his way to the U.S. for treatment. But the amendment would need to clear several more hurdles — including votes by the full House and the Senate — to become law.

That is likely to take some time. The amendment was added to a controversial spending bill that includes funding for President Trump’s border wall.

A British judge is expected to rule next week on whether Charlie, who suffers from a rare genetic condition that has left him with severe brain damage and unable to move or breath on his own, can be transferred to the U.S. or Italy, where there are hospitals offering to take over his care. 

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, which has been treating Charlie since October, obtained a court order in April allowing doctors to take the boy off a ventilator because they don't think the proposed treatment will help and could cause him additional pain and distress.

Two other British courts agreed with the decision, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, declined to take up the case last month. But when hospital officials were contacted by the other facilities, they agreed to return to the original court to give the judge a chance to reconsider.

At an emotional hearing last week, a U.S. doctor testified over a video link that there was clinical evidence suggesting that Charlie might improve with the treatment. The judge asked the doctor to go to London to evaluate Charlie and meet with his medical team, which the doctor did on Monday and Tuesday.

The case has become an international cause célèbre, with both Trump and Pope Francis tweeting their support for Charlie’s parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard. Conservative Christian and anti-abortion groups in the U.S. have also taken up their cause.

“Parents have the most at stake when it comes to standing up for their children and right now, we have an incredible opportunity to stand with a family and save a child’s life,” Beutler said in a statement Tuesday.

Last week, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation to grant permanent resident status to Charlie and his family. That bill has not come up for a vote yet. 

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