New hope for Charlie Gard as judge invites US doctor to fly to UK to examine him

ReutersThe parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, arrive at the High Court in London

A doctor from the United States is to fly to the UK this weekend to assess the critically-ill baby Charlie Gard on Monday.

Dr Michio Hirano from Columbia University Medical Center in New York, the world leader on the specialist experimental treatment Charlie's parents want to try, was named in the High Court in London for the first time this morning. 

Mr Justice Francis in the High Court invited Dr Hirano to Great Ormond Street Hospital to examine Charlie. 

If he concludes that Charlie could be treatable, his parents will be hoping that they can overturn the current court ban on them taking their 11-month-old son to the US for treatment by Dr Hirano. The parents have raised £1.3 million via crowdfunding to pay for the trip.

The courts have been relucant to allow Charlie to go because judges so far have concluded that this would only prolong his suffering and there is no realistic chance of him getting better. Great Ormond Street Hospital wants him to be allowed to die with dignity.

Hospital staff have received abuse and threats. Charlie's parents today condemned this and urged those making the threats to stop. 

They have new hope this morning after the High Court in Strand, London, was told by Dr Hirano on video link that in fact there is a small chance of improvement.

Charlie suffers from a rare terminal illness, mitochondrial DNA depletion condition, but his parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates believe the new experimental treatment developed by Dr Hirano could save his life. 

Dr Hirano told the court there was between an 11 and 56 per cent chance that the treatment could help Charlie's muscular strength and a 'small but significant' chance it could improve brain function. 

Both US President Donald Trump and Pope Francis have tweeted support for Charlie.

The US Christian community has also come out fighting for the baby to be given the chance of treatment in the US.

Evangelist Franklin Graham wrote on his Facebook page: 'As a parent and a grandparent, this is so alarming. Little Charlie Gard's parents deserve the right to bring him to the US to try to find treatment for him – that shouldn't even have to be discussed! It's their prerogative. That the UK hospital or the government would not allow them to make the decisions about Charlie's life and medical care is unfathomable.

'Days and days have passed that he could've been being treated here in America – this is a tragedy. They have now delivered a petition with 350,000 signatures to the hospital, saying that they should release Charlie as the parents request. This is one of the dangers of socialized medicine. We need to stay as far away from this as possible here in the United States as healthcare is reorganized! Charlie's case may be back in court today, so join me in praying for him and for his mom and dad, Connie Yates and Chris Gard. Let them know you're praying in the comments below.'

Ruth GledhillUS evangelical pastor Rev Patrick Mahoney (r) at the High Court

Pro-life pastor Rev Patrick Mahoney has flown to Britain prayed with the parents at Charlie's bedside in Great Ormond Street  and is attending the High Court hearings in support of the parents.

Connie Yates and Chris Gard are also being helped by Americans United for Life, the pro-life law firm, which has posted a petition calling for him to be allowed a final chance and which yesterday passed the half million signature mark. AUL's president, lawyer Catherine Glenn Foster, has flown to the UK and is in court, live tweeting the proceedings.

Family spokesman Alasdair Seton-Marsden said at the end of yesterday's hearing: 'We hope that the judge and the courts will finally rule in favour of us seeking treatment elsewhere. If he is still fighting, then we are still fighting.' 

Yesterday's hearing was marked by loud protests all day by campaigners, accompanied by supporting horn toots from passing drivers. Today is much quieter as the parents and supporters welcome the new hope given them by Mr Justice Francis.