Timely treatment might have helped Charlie Gard, claims doctor from Pope’s hospital

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Rome, July 26 (IANS/AKI) Terminally ill British baby Charlie Gard might have benefited from timely experimental therapy to treat his rare genetic disease, a top doctor from Pope Francis’ paediatric hospital here said on Tuesday.

“If the (experimental) treatment had been tried in time, there would have been some possibility of having an impact on this disease,” Enrico Bertini told journalists.

“I don’t know how much,” added Bertini, who heads the Bambin Gesu hospital’s neurosciences and neuro-rehabilitation department.

“But it was an opportunity to seize, because the treatment poses no major risks.”

Bertini examined 11-month-old Charlie last week at London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital with US neuroscientist Michio Hirano, who, after reviewing the latest scans, said he was no longer prepared to offer the experimental nucleoside treatment, as the baby had irreversible brain and muscle damage.

“We realised that the situation was dire. The child had lost more than 90 percent of his muscle mass,” said Bertini.

“Charlie’s parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates announced on Monday they were giving up their five-month legal battle for their son to receive the nucleoside treatment from Hirano in the US, for which they raised over 1.3 million pounds in donations.

In an emotional statement, the couple said the new scans showed it was now “too late” for Charlie to benefit from nucleoside therapy and said they would allow his ventilator to be removed “before his first birthday” so he could “slip away” and “be with the angels”.

Hirano and Bertini’s view that timely nucleoside therapy would have had a chance of improving Charlie’s condition is at odds with that of specialists at GOSH and elsewhere in UK who claim the nucleoside treatment could never have improved the mitochondrial depletion syndrome that affects Charlie.

The hospital on Monday said Hirano had testified to the High Court that he has a financial interest in some of the compounds used in the nucleoside treatment he proposed prescribing for Charlie.

Charlie’s parents were on Tuesday in a dispute with GOSH over whether he will be allowed to die at home, as his parents wish, or if this will happen in hospital.

Pope Francis, who intervened in the case last month, is praying for Charlie and his parents “at this time of indescribable suffering,” the Vatican said on Monday.

–IANS/AKI

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