THE life and - last week - death of Charlie Gard has been a tragic saga of human suffering. It has also been a most unedifying example of how social media-driven campaigns so often degenerate into divisive, emotive virtue-signalling of the very worst kind.

While little Charlie and his parents suffered unimaginable agonies, the child’s life and the legal battle into which it was dragged became public property, with ignorant people on both sides of the Atlantic taking it upon themselves to claim possession of this child’s plight.

It is impossible to feel anything but the utmost sympathy for Charlie’s parents. Of course they desperately wanted to believe that somewhere out there there was some hope for their son; that maybe the British medics dealing with his case didn’t know about every treatment. Where there’s life, there’s hope - and who could possibly deny a parent the right to hope their child might be saved?

However, it must also be accepted that sometimes, sadly, there simply isn’t any realistic hope for a meaningful survival - and when that is accepted, it is time to let that loved one (however young they may be) slip away with love and dignity.

Charlie Gard did slip away surrounded by love from his parents; but with dignity? That is more difficult to see. It is unfortunate that so much of this little boy’s short life was played out in the glare of publicity. No one can blame his parents for doing everything they thought was best. Caught up in the nightmare of being told your child is terminally ill and about to die, cool, calm and collected judgment is bound to take second place to overwhelming emotions.

But the people advising Charlie’s parents, those orchestrating the public campaign to “save” him, do not have that excuse - and many of them have behaved shamefully.

Images of screaming women outside the Royal Courts of Justice bearing placards demanding “Relase Charlie” (as though the poor child was some sort of political prisoner) and wearing T-shirts with “Its Murder” incoherently emblazoned upon them, are entirely and shockingly illustrative of the way in which Charlie was hijacked by people who just love to have a cause - and no matter that their cause is based upon sheer ignorance.

Donald Trump’s intervention served no possible purpose other than to feed the media frenzy (both mainstream and social) surrounding Charlie Gard. His motives can only be guessed at but what is certain is that he fed false hope to the parents of Charlie and gave a pseudo credence to the revolting behaviour of many of his fellow Americans, whose ignorant shouts came loud and clear across The Pond.

In the midst of this maelstrom, the medical team treating Charlie at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, and the judges called upon to arbitrate in the case, never wavered from doing what they were charged with: that is, considering Charlie’s best interests at every turn. They of course refused to be drawn into emotive arguments but stuck to the main and crucial issues of Charlie’s possible suffering and Charlie’s quality of life.

So many of the people campaigning to “save” Charlie did so on the basis of complete ignorance. They knew nothing about his case other than what they had read in the media; they did not know his parents; and they certainly didn’t know him. But they had plenty to shout about - and that is what they really loved. Not Charlie - they couldn’t love him, they didn’t know him - but the chance to be out there, shouting for the cameras and showing the world how much they care. All they actually showed was their own narcissism.

While Charlie’s family will spend a lifetime grieving their loss, the people who purported to support them will no doubt melt away, forget Charlie and move on to the next “cause” that will give them the opportunity for publicity and a public voice. Such is the nature of a modern, compassionate society for far too many people, all of whom should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.