Charlie Gard judge hopes parents and hospital can agree settlement

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Jul 17, 2017
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The terminally-ill baby’s parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, want to take him to the US for experimental therapy

Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

There is still a chance for a mediated settlement between the parents of the brain-damaged baby Charlie Gard and doctors at the UK’s leading children’s hospital, a High Court judge said on Friday.

Mr Justice Francis, who is hearing the last-chance appeal by Charlie's parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, made his comments as it emerged that an American specialist who has offered to treat the 11-month-old child in the US is to fly to London to examine him next week.

Michio Hirano will meet with the medical team treating Charlie, who has a rare genetic condition, and possibly two other specialists – one from the Pope’s hospital in Rome and one from Barcelona. The critical meeting on the baby’s future will take place today and tomorrow at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where the parties will try to agree on whether there is a case to give Charlie experimental therapy.

On Friday, Mr Justice Francis said that if all parties agreed on Charlie being transferred to the US for treatment, “I will agree it with you”. Charlie’s parents are asking the judge to rule that the 11-month-old should be allowed to undergo a therapy trial overseen by Dr Hirano in New York.

Specialists at Great Ormond Street, where Charlie is being cared for, have consistently argued before all tiers of court that the therapy is experimental and will not help. Katie Gollop, QC, of Serjeant’s Inn Chambers, for the hospital, told the court that a doctor had been invited to attend the hospital back in January to see Charlie but not accepted. The hospital said that the American doctor had therefore not seen the baby, nor any of his notes, records or scans. “That invitation remains open,” said the silk.

Mr Justice Francis agreed to lift an order that barred journalists from revealing the name of Dr Hirano, a professor of neurology at the Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, after representations made by the media. The judge had made an order barring journalists from naming Hirano or saying where he was based early this year, shortly after litigation began. 

Charlie’s parents had said they were worried that publicity might put pressure on the doctor. However, journalists argued that naming Dr Hirano was in the public interest and he has said he has no objection to being identified as the doctor involved in the case.

Reporting restrictions remain preventing the naming of the medical staff at Great Ormond Street treating the child.

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