Nurses and doctors at the famous London hospital embroiled in the Charlie Gard case have faced a “shocking and disgraceful tide of hostility and disturbance”, it was revealed over the weekend.
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust issued a statement on 22 July warning that it would do “everything possible to hold to account” those involved in such “deplorable behaviour”.
“Staff have received abuse both in the street and online”
The trust’s chair, Mary MacLeod, said the organisation understood the high level of public interest and emotions linked to the Charlie Gard case.
The 11-month-old, who has a rare genetic condition called encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome that has suffered brain damage, is on life support at Great Ormond Street.
Doctors at the trust believe the life support should be turned off but the child’s parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, want to take him to the US for experimental treatment, resulting in a series of High Court hearings.
It has sparked protests outside the London hospital as well as dividing opion on social media, prompting interventions from high profile figures including the Pope and US president Donald Trump – described as unhelpful by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
In her statement, Ms MacLeod highlighted that the hospital cared for “many thousands of seriously unwell children every year, providing outstanding treatment for those who need it most”.
“Charlie Gard’s case is a heart-breaking one,” she said. “We fully understand that there is intense public interest, and that emotions run high.
“We recognise the tireless advocacy of Charlie’s loving parents and the natural sympathy people feel with his situation,” said Ms MacLeod.
But she argued that, in recent weeks, the trust’s community has been subjected to a “shocking and disgraceful tide of hostility and disturbance”.
“Staff have received abuse both in the street and online,” she said. “Thousands of abusive messages have been sent to doctors and nurses whose life’s work is to care for sick children.”
“Many of these messages are menacing, including death threats. Families have been harassed and discomforted while visiting their children, and we have received complaints of unacceptable behaviour even within the hospital itself,” said Ms MacLeod.
“Whatever the strong emotions raised by this case, there can be no excuse for patients and families to have their privacy and peace disturbed as they deal with their own often very stressful situations or for dedicated doctors and nurses to suffer this kind of abuse,” she said.
“Many of these messages are menacing, including death threats”
She added that the trust was in close contact with the Metropolitan Police and would do “everything possible to hold to account anybody who is involved in this kind of deplorable behaviour”.
The parent of Charlie Gard put out their own statement in response, saying they did not condone any “threatening or abusive remarks” made towards any of the trust’s staff.
They added that they too had received “hurtful comments” from the public surrounding the legal challenge.
The case is due back in court today.