Press Release

Baby with heart condition airlifted from UK to Vatican hospital for specialist treatment

25 April 2024         Issued by: Christian Concern

A one-month-old baby with a serious congenital heart condition requiring specialist treatment has been dramatically airlifted by a military jet from the UK to the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in Rome.

The parents of the child were told by an NHS hospital that the specialist treatment was not available in the UK. To try and save the life of their child, they faced no alternative but to turn to Italian authorities and lawyer and former senator, Simone Pillon.

The father of the child, who does not wish to be identified, is an Italian citizen who has worked in the UK for many years.

Mr Pillon was involved in the high-profile legal case of Indi Gregory in November 2023.

Indi was diagnosed with a rare mitochondrial disease, but her parents, Dean and Clare, maintained that despite her disability she was happy and responsive to their touch and they wanted to give her a chance to live.

Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, made Indi an Italian citizen and offered to fully fund airlifting Indi to Rome for specialist treatment.

However, the UK courts and NHS clinicians at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham blocked the move ruling that it was in the ‘best interests’ of the eight-month-old baby to have her life-support removed.

Clinicians at the Nottingham hospital had refused to cooperate with the Italian air ambulance to secure her transfer, arguing that it was safer for her to die in a hospice than to be given a chance of life in Italy.

The refusal of the UK authorities to allow the transfer sparked international outrage and Indi sadly passed away in a hospice after her life support was removed.

Italian and UK cooperation 

In this latest case, however, the Italian authorities were able to cooperate and work with the NHS to secure the transfer before the issue was referred to the High Court.

During careful negotiations and collaboration, Italian authorities and doctors at the Bambino Gesù proposed a transfer involving putting an ambulance and full medical team on a specially equipped military aircraft C -130 of 46th Air Brigade.

The medical team included Professor Bi Chiara and Professor Galletti from the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital.

Safely transferred, within a matter of hours on the morning of Tuesday 23 April, the baby and his parents arrived in Rome. Yesterday (April 24) the child underwent a double operation.

The story coincides with a case reported in the UK media today involving Christian parents being denied the opportunity by the High Court for their disabled four-year-old son to be treated at the same hospital in Rome.

‘We are so relieved’

The father of the baby, said: “My wife and I are very happy and relieved. We sincerely thank the Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and all the Italian authorities who actively took action to make the transfer of our son possible. 

“A special thanks goes to the staff of the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital who have committed to providing our son with specialist treatment.

“We also thank the medical staff at the UK hospital for smoothly authorizing and supporting us and our son through this process.

“Finally, we thank the lawyer Simone Pillon for the legal and human support he and his colleagues has given us from the beginning. We now hope for our son to recover soon.” 

Simone Pillon said: “We are very pleased that we have been able to demonstrate to the UK that it is possible to work together and safely transfer children with serious medical conditions from the UK to Rome for specialist treatment. We are very thankful to the UK doctors. 

“While this is an encouraging day for this baby boy and his family, we think of the family of Indi Gregory who were denied the chance to bring their child to Italy.

“We hope this can be the beginning of further cooperation and teamwork with the UK when such emergencies occur and when there is an opportunity to try and save a child’s life.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which has supported a number of high-profile end-of-life cases involving children in the UK, said: “This is a huge moment for how end-of-life cases involving children could be handled in this country. 

“This baby has been given a chance of life and the wishes of the parents have been supported and respected.” 

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