Charlie Gard, 'beautiful little boy' at heart of dispute, dies

LONDON, July 28 (Reuters) - Charlie Gard, a British baby who became the subject of a bitter dispute between his parents and doctors over whether he should be taken to the United States for experimental treatment, has died, local media said on Friday.

The 11-month-old baby suffered from an extremely rare genetic condition causing progressive brain damage and muscle weakness, and his parents' long struggle to save him drew an international outpouring of sympathy, including from U.S. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis.

"Our beautiful little boy has gone, we are so proud of you Charlie," Connie Yates, the baby's mother, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

Charlie Gard's parents

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Charlie Gard's parents
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Charlie Gard's parents
Chris Gard and Connie Yates, who are battling to take their baby Charlie to the US for treatment against advice from doctors that he should be taken off life support arrive at The High Court in London, Britain April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Chris Gard and Connie Yates, who are battling to take their baby Charlie to the US for treatment against advice from doctors that he should be taken off life support arrive at The High Court in London, Britain April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Chris Gard and Connie Yates, who are battling to take their baby Charlie to the US for treatment against advice from doctors that he should be taken off life support arrive at The High Court in London, Britain April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Chris Gard, who is battling to take his baby Charlie Gard to the US for treatment against advice from doctors that he should be taken off life support arrives at The High Court in London, Britain April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Connie Yates, who is battling to take her baby Charlie Gard to the US for treatment against advice from doctors that he should be taken off life support arrives at The High Court in London, Britain April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Parents of Charlie Gard, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, walk through the grounds of the Royal Courts of Justice on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. Their crowdfunding campaign raising money for treatment in the US for their eight month old son, Charlie Gard, reached its target of �1.2million this past weekend. Charlie suffers from a form of mitochondrial disease and is the subject of a dispute over life-support between the Great Ormond Street specialists who are treating him and his parents. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Parents of Charlie Gard, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, walk through the grounds of the Royal Courts of Justice on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. Their crowdfunding campaign raising money for treatment in the US for their eight month old son, Charlie Gard, reached its target of �1.2million this past weekend. Charlie suffers from a form of mitochondrial disease and is the subject of a dispute over life-support between the Great Ormond Street specialists who are treating him and his parents. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Parents of Charlie Gard, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, walk through the grounds of the Royal Courts of Justice on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. Their crowdfunding campaign raising money for treatment in the US for their eight month old son, Charlie Gard, reached its target of �1.2million this past weekend. Charlie suffers from a form of mitochondrial disease and is the subject of a dispute over life-support between the Great Ormond Street specialists who are treating him and his parents. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Parents of Charlie Gard, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, walk through the grounds of the Royal Courts of Justice on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. Their crowdfunding campaign raising money for treatment in the US for their eight month old son, Charlie Gard, reached its target of �1.2million this past weekend. Charlie suffers from a form of mitochondrial disease and is the subject of a dispute over life-support between the Great Ormond Street specialists who are treating him and his parents. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Charlie had been receiving treatment, had no immediate comment on the Daily Mail report. Local media said a family spokesman had confirmed the death.

After a harrowing legal battle that prompted a global debate over who has the moral right to decide the fate of a sick child, a judge on Thursday ordered that Charlie be moved to a hospice where the ventilator that keeps him alive would be turned off.

Yates and the baby's father Chris Gard had wanted Charlie to undergo a treatment that has never been tried on anyone with his condition before, against the advice of doctors at his London hospital who said it would not benefit him and would prolong his suffering.

Charlie required a ventilator to breathe and was unable to see, hear or swallow.

The case drew comment from Trump, who tweeted on July 3 that "we would be delighted" to helpCharlie, and from Pope Francis, who called for the parents to be allowed to do everything possible to treat their child.

Britain's courts, after hearing a wealth of medical evidence, ruled that it would go against Charlie's best interests to have the experimental nucleoside therapy advocated by a U.S. professor of neurology, Michio Hirano.

The case prompted heated debate on social media and in the press on medical ethics, and staff at the Great Ormond Street Hospital which treated him received abuse and death threats.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that he was saddened to hear of Charlie's death. He has previously referred to the case in the context of the U.S. healthcare debate, saying it offered a warning of the risks of state-funded healthcare. (Additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Fanny Potkin; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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