U.S. expert visits London hospital to examine baby Charlie Gard


UPDATE 1-U.S. expert visits London hospital to examine baby Charlie Gard

* Judge to decide if baby's life support should end
    * U.S. doctor says experimental therapy could help
    * Case has drawn intervention from Pope Francis, Trump
    * It has prompted a heated debate on medical ethics

 (Updates after doctor's hospital visit)
    By Michael HoldenLONDON, July 17 (Reuters) - A U.S doctor offering
experimental treatment to a critically ill British baby visited
the London hospital where he is being treated on Monday as part
of a last-ditch attempt to persuade a judge to keep the boy's
life support switched on.
    The parents of Charlie Gard, who has a rare genetic
condition causing progressive muscle weakness and brain damage,
have been fighting a legal battle to send him to the United
States for the neurologist's experimental therapy.
    But Britain's courts have refused permission on the grounds
it would prolong his suffering without a realistic prospect of
it helping the 11-month-old child.
   The case has gained global attention after interventions by
U.S. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, who have both
voiced support for Charlie. It has prompted a fierce debate
around the world about medical ethics and whether the hospital
treating the child or his parents should determine his fate.
    The U.S. doctor offering the treatment - Michio Hirano, a
professor of neurology at New York'sColumbia University Medical
Center - visited London's world-renowned Great Ormond Street
Hospital for Children (GOSH) to examine Charlie for the first
time and to meet other medical experts involved in the case.
    He has been given an honorary contract allowing him to see
the boy and have full access to his medical records.
    Hirano says the therapy he is developing could improve the
condition of Charlie who suffers from a form of mitochondrial
disease. He believes there is between an 11 and 56 percent
chance the nucleoside therapy would improve the baby's muscular
strength and that there is a "small but significant" chance it
would also help brain functions.

    Charlie's parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have been
trying to send their son to the United States to undergo
Hirano's therapy. But GOSH says Charlie, who cannot breathe
without a ventilator, has no quality of life and that his life
support should be turned off.
    London'sHigh Court, the Court of Appeal and Britain'sSupreme Court have backed the hospital, a decision also
supported by the European Court of Human Rights.
    But last week, the case returned to the High Court after the
hospital asked for a new hearing to consider new evidence from
    The U.S. neurologist said reports of brain scans suggested
that Charlie had brain disorder rather than structural damage.
He said the better muscular strength would also allow a better
assessment of his brain condition.
    "In my view my keeping Charlie on artificial ventilation
will not cause significant harm because he does not seem to be
in pain," he said.
    However, Hirano had never seen Charlie and has had limited
access to his medical records, so it was agreed he should come
to Britain to examine him and discuss the case with doctors
involved in his treatment and other independent medical
    The findings of the meeting will be reported to Judge
Nicholas Francis who is expected to make a final decision on
July 25.

 (Editing by Pravin Char)
 ((michael.holden@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 3213; Reuters
Messaging: michael.holden.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))


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