Belfast Telegraph

US expert will travel to London to examine little Charlie Gard

By Brian Farmer

An American specialist who has offered to treat Charlie Gard will examine the terminally ill baby next week, a judge has heard.

Michio Hirano is scheduled to visit Great Ormond Street Hospital in London on Monday and Tuesday and discuss the case with specialists treating Charlie, Mr Justice Francis was told.

It came after the High Court judge lifted an order barring the name of the American specialist being reported.

Mr Justice Francis ruled Dr Hirano, a professor of neurology at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, could be named in media reports.

Charlie's parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates want the judge to rule the 11-month-old, who suffers from a rare genetic condition and has brain damage, should be allowed to undergo a therapy trial overseen by Dr Hirano in New York.

Specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where Charlie is being cared for, say the therapy is experimental and will not help. They say life support treatment should stop.

Mr Justice Francis had made an order barring journalists from naming Dr Hirano or saying where he was based early this year.

Charlie's parents had said they were worried publicity might put pressure on Dr Hirano.

But journalists argued that naming Dr Hirano would be in the public interest - and he has now said he has no objection to being identified as the doctor involved in the case. Charlie's parents, who are from Bedfont, west London, have already lost battles in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in London to allow him to travel to the US for treatment.

They have also failed to persuade European Court of Human Rights judges to intervene.

The couple now say there is new evidence and want Mr Justice Francis, who in April ruled in favour of Great Ormond Street and said Charlie should be allowed to die with dignity, to carry out a fresh analysis of their case. The judge is considering their claims at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

Dr Hirano gave evidence, via a link from New York, on Thursday. The judge said he wanted to hear what Dr Hirano believes has changed since he gave his ruling in April.

Dr Hirano said he has clinical data which was not available in April and he still believes the therapy is "worth trying".

The doctor estimated a 10% chance of improvement in muscle strength and a "small but significant" improvement in brain function.

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