American doctor to travel to UK in Charlie Gard case

The parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, right, arrive at the High Court in London, Friday, July 14, 2017. The parents of the 11-month old, who has a rare genetic condition and brain damage, returned to court FridThe Associated Press
The parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, right, arrive at the High Court in London, Friday, July 14, 2017. The parents of the 11-month old, who has a rare genetic condition and brain damage, returned to court Friday hoping for a fresh analysis of their wish to take baby Charlie to the United States for medical treatment. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

An American doctor who specializes in conditions such as that affecting Charlie Gard will be traveling to Britain next week to assess the critically ill baby.

High Court Judge Nicholas Francis said he is "open-minded about the evidence" to come after the visit of Dr. Michio Hirano of Columbia University. Hirano's research focuses on mitochondrial diseases and genetic myopathies and he has treated others with conditions similar to that involving the 11-month-old.

Gard's parents have been locked in a legal battle with Britain's most famous children's hospital over whether trying an experimental treatment is in Charlie's best interest. The case attracted international attention after President Donald Trump and Pope Francis weighed in.

They have been fighting to take him to the United States for treatment. But after much legal wrangling, Hirano decided to come to them.

Hirano will meet with Charlie's current immediate care team, together with other specialists, including a doctor from the Vatican children's hospital.

"We'll have to wait and see the evidence," Judge Francis said. He promised to rule by July 25.

Charlie suffers from mitochondrial depletion syndrome, a rare genetic disease that has left him brain-damaged and unable to breathe unaided.

Specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital have fought the parents' bid for therapy because they don't think it will help and may cause him pain. The hospital says Charlie should be allowed to die with dignity.

A succession of courts has backed the hospital, but the case returned to the High Court Thursday after claims of new evidence and the high-profile interventions

Hirano, who testified in the case via videolink in the case on Thursday, said it was worth trying treatment that has only recently emerged.

Hirano's name only appeared in public on Friday, as a court order had previously blocked its mention.