Charlie Gard case: American doctor arrives to examine terminally ill baby

LONDON — The U.S. doctor who told a British court that experimental treatment could help terminally ill baby Charlie Gard has arrived in London to examine the boy.

Michio Hirano, a professor of neurology at Columbia University in New York City, arrived at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Monday, the hospital confirmed to NBC News.

Hirano is one of two physicians who have been invited to examine the 11-month-old, who is unable to move his arms or legs or breathe unaided.

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Charlie Gard's parents
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Charlie Gard's parents
Chris Gard and Connie Yates, who are battling to take their baby Charlie to the US for treatment against advice from doctors that he should be taken off life support arrive at The High Court in London, Britain April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Chris Gard and Connie Yates, who are battling to take their baby Charlie to the US for treatment against advice from doctors that he should be taken off life support arrive at The High Court in London, Britain April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Chris Gard and Connie Yates, who are battling to take their baby Charlie to the US for treatment against advice from doctors that he should be taken off life support arrive at The High Court in London, Britain April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Chris Gard, who is battling to take his baby Charlie Gard to the US for treatment against advice from doctors that he should be taken off life support arrives at The High Court in London, Britain April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Connie Yates, who is battling to take her baby Charlie Gard to the US for treatment against advice from doctors that he should be taken off life support arrives at The High Court in London, Britain April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Parents of Charlie Gard, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, walk through the grounds of the Royal Courts of Justice on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. Their crowdfunding campaign raising money for treatment in the US for their eight month old son, Charlie Gard, reached its target of �1.2million this past weekend. Charlie suffers from a form of mitochondrial disease and is the subject of a dispute over life-support between the Great Ormond Street specialists who are treating him and his parents. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Parents of Charlie Gard, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, walk through the grounds of the Royal Courts of Justice on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. Their crowdfunding campaign raising money for treatment in the US for their eight month old son, Charlie Gard, reached its target of �1.2million this past weekend. Charlie suffers from a form of mitochondrial disease and is the subject of a dispute over life-support between the Great Ormond Street specialists who are treating him and his parents. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Parents of Charlie Gard, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, walk through the grounds of the Royal Courts of Justice on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. Their crowdfunding campaign raising money for treatment in the US for their eight month old son, Charlie Gard, reached its target of �1.2million this past weekend. Charlie suffers from a form of mitochondrial disease and is the subject of a dispute over life-support between the Great Ormond Street specialists who are treating him and his parents. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07: Parents of Charlie Gard, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, walk through the grounds of the Royal Courts of Justice on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. Their crowdfunding campaign raising money for treatment in the US for their eight month old son, Charlie Gard, reached its target of �1.2million this past weekend. Charlie suffers from a form of mitochondrial disease and is the subject of a dispute over life-support between the Great Ormond Street specialists who are treating him and his parents. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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GOSH said Hirano and the other physician, who has not been identified, had been awarded honorary contracts allowing them to examine Charlie.

"For the purpose of this visit, this gives them the same status as our own clinicians and allows them both to examine the patient and to have full access to our records and facilities," the hospital said in a statement.

"Clinical staff would be on hand to facilitate the visit," the statement added.

Related: Lawmakers Call for U.S. Residency for Terminally Ill Baby Charlie Gard

Hirano, whose name was previously protected by court restrictions, appeared in court last week via video link to say that he believes there is a 10 percent chance of "clinically meaningful success" if the baby were to undergo the experimental treatment his parents are seeking.

In a statement last week, Columbia University Medical Center said Hirano's lab is "developing experimental therapies for mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, the disorder that afflicts Charlie Gard."

Charlie suffers from the rare genetic condition, which causes progressive muscle weakness and brain damage.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have raised $1.8 million to take him to the United States for experimental therapy but doctors at GOSH say further therapy would cause more suffering.

Britain's courts have so far backed the doctors' position, ruling that transferring Charlie to the U.S. would prolong suffering without a realistic prospect of success.

Related: Charlie Gard Parents Storm Out Of Court

But the case was reopened earlier this month at England's High Court after two overseas hospitals approached GOSH with possible evidence of alternative treatments that might help Charlie's condition.

Charlie made international headlines earlier this month after President Donald Trump and Pope Francis commented on his case.

Trump tweeted his support for the Gard family July 3, writing: "If we can help little #CharlieGard, as per our friends in the U.K. and the Pope, we would be delighted to do so."

The Vatican said Pope Francis was following the case with "affection and emotion" and "expresses his own closeness to his [Charlie's] parents."

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