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Terminally ill British baby, family granted U.S. visa for medical treatment

Charlie Gard has been granted permanent resident status in the United States. REX/Shutterstock

An 11-month-old British baby has been granted permanent resident status in the United States so that he can receive medical treatment — but that doesn’t mean he’ll be going.

The U.S. Congress voted Tuesday to allow Charlie Gard, and his parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates, into the country on an immigrant visa or permanent residency.

Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican congressman, confirmed the decision in a tweet.

It’s unclear whether the U.S. Congress’ move will result in the family going to the U.S. for treatment, since British courts have refused permission for the child to be moved. The courts have ruled that it would prolong his suffering without a realistic prospect of helping the child.

The terminally ill boy, who has a rare genetic condition causing progressive muscle weakness and brain damage, has been the centre of political controversy for months. His parents have been fighting a legal battle to send him to the U.S. for experimental therapy.

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WATCH: Parents of Charlie Gard say if he continues to fight, then they’ll continue to fight

Click to play video: 'Parents of Charlie Gard say if he continues to fight, then they’ll continue to fight' Parents of Charlie Gard say if he continues to fight, then they’ll continue to fight
Parents of Charlie Gard say if he continues to fight, then they’ll continue to fight – Jul 10, 2017

The case gained global attention after interventions by U.S. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, who have both voiced support for Charlie.

The case has prompted a fierce debate around the world about medical ethics and whether the hospital treating the child or his parents should determine his fate.

A U.S. doctor and neurology professor at Columbia University, Michio Hirano, has offered to treat Charlie.

The doctor says the therapy he is developing could improve Charlie’s health. He believes there is between an 11 and 56 per cent chance the nucleoside therapy would improve the baby’s muscular strength, and that there is a “small but significant” chance it would also help brain functions.

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READ MORE: Parents of sick baby, Charlie Gard storm out of court hearing in London

However, Hirano had never seen Charlie and has had limited access to his medical records, so it was agreed he should come to Britain to examine him and discuss the case with other doctors and specialists.

The findings of the meeting will be reported to Judge Nicholas Francis, who is expected to make a final decision on July 25.

— With files from Reuters

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