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Judge allows US specialist to be named in Charlie Gard case

By Brian Farmer and John Aston, Press Association

A High Court judge has lifted an order which barred journalists from revealing the name of the American specialist who has offered to treat terminally-ill baby Charlie Gard.

Mr Justice Francis on Friday said Michio Hirano, a professor of neurology at the Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, could be named in media reports.

He made the decision at a High Court hearing in London during the latest stage of a legal dispute between Charlie's parents and London-based doctors.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates want the judge to rule that their 11-month-old son, 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 made an order barring journalists from naming Dr Hirano or saying where he was based shortly after litigation began earlier this year.

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

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Charlie Gard's parents Connie Yates and Chris Gard outside court (Jonathan Brady/PA)

But journalists said naming him would be in the public interest - and he said on Friday that he had no objection to being identified as the doctor involved.

The American specialist is scheduled to visit Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where 11-month-old Charlie is being cared for, over two days next week.

Dr Hirano is due to arrive at the hospital on Monday and discuss Charlie's condition with doctors treating the boy and with independent specialists.

Detail of the plan emerged on Friday during the latest round of a legal fight between Great Ormond Street bosses and Charlie's parents.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates want the judge to rule that their 11-month-old son, 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.

Charlie's parents, who are in their 30s and come from Bedfont, west London, have already lost battles in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in London.

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

But the couple say there is new evidence and want Mr Justice Francis to carry out a fresh analysis of their case.

In April, the judge ruled in favour of Great Ormond Street and said Charlie should be allowed to die with dignity.

Mr Justice Francis has considered their claims at preliminary hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He is due to stage further hearings later this month following next week's gathering of specialists.

Dr Hirano gave evidence, via a link from New York, at a hearing on Thursday.

The judge said he wanted to hear what Dr Hirano believed had changed since he gave his ruling in April.

Dr Hirano said he had clinical data which was not available in April and he still believed that the therapy was ''worth trying''.

The doctor estimated that there could be a 10% chance of improvement in muscle strength and a ''small but significant'' improvement in brain function.

He told the judge that he had never seen or examined Charlie.

Mr Justice Francis suggested that a visit to Great Ormond Street and discussions with specialists treating Charlie would be a good idea.

The judge said Charlie's mother could attend a specialists' meeting at Great Ormond Street next week.

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