Sensational journalism fuelled by social media frenzy. Throw in a bit of politics and religion, and there you have the perfect recipe for a dinner party conversation.
That, and an emotionally charged campaign that goes by the world-famous name of #charliesfight – the fight to keep a dying infant boy alive.
Charlie Gard was born in August 2016 and was diagnosed with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS), a rare genetic disorder that causes progressive brain damage and muscle failure. With no treatment available, the only option was to end his life support.
Not surprisingly, the parents disagreed with the medics’ decisions. Desperate but hopeful, Chris Gard and Connie Yates went onto social media to raise over £1.3 million donations for a transfer to a New York hospital to try experimental treatment. In doing so, they garnered loyal supporters who called themselves #charliesarmy.
The publicity campaign was well underway when the High Court ruled in favour of the medical decision. When the parents appealed to the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights, the public became increasingly vocal.
Opinions and accusations were rampant all over Facebook and Twitter. The media frenzy around the court case further divided the public with legal and medical professionals. Protests were held outside the hospital and staff were abused with insults and death threats.
Clearly, a dying child is an emotive subject, and something that everyone can relate to. Our survival instincts and compassion for the younglings make us vulnerable. It doesn’t matter which side you are on. The point is everybody has an opinion and they want to be heard. Citizen journalism and the internet became the perfect platform for this.
There is a lot that brand owners can learn from this. The Charlie Gard case shows us that people are always looking out for each other. Even though we spend most of our waking hours staring at a screen and complain that we don’t talk to each other anymore, the fact is, we do talk. We talk a lot.
We come together for a good cause, as long as there is a real cause we can fight for. Brands have the power to influence the public and policy makers. Corporate social responsibility is just the start towards societal improvement. There is so much more we can do.
So rather than committing to a charitable cause for the sake of ticking a box, brand owners should turn to their employees and their customers and ask them what they really care about, and what matters in their community. Find a cause that they can support and rally the public to make a change for good.
That was the quote his parents used to campaign for treatment.
Sadly, in the case of little Charlie, there was no magical potion to cure his ills. Even with the support of The White House and the Vatican, his life support machine was turned off and he passed away on 28th July 2017, just seven days before he turned one.
But his legacy lives on. His parents have set up The Charlie Gard Foundation which aims to support children, adults and their families that have been affected by mitochondrial disease. Chris Gard and Connie Yates have also developed ‘Charlie’s Law’ to try and find a way to avoid other families being taken to court.
The fight goes on.