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Doctors can lawfully stop life-support for brain-damaged Archie Battersbee, appeal judges rule

Written by on 26 July 2022

Doctors can lawfully stop providing life-support treatment to 12-year-old boy Archie Battersbee, who is in a comatose state with severe brain damage, appeal judges have ruled.

Three Court of Appeal judges delivered a ruling about what moves are in the best interests of Archie, who suffered “catastrophic” brain damage three months ago.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Peter Jackson had considered arguments at a hearing at the Court of Appeal in London last week.

Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, had mounted an appeal bid after a High Court judge ruled doctors could lawfully stop treatment.

Ms Dance said she had seen indications that Archie, who is attached to a ventilator, had twice tried to breathe for himself in the last few days.

Archie’s mother ‘disgusted’ at ruling

Archie’s parents are being supported by the campaign organisation Christian Legal Centre.

Andrea Williams, its chief executive, said outside the court: “I am very disappointed that they have not adjourned this decision given that Mr Battersbee has been taken to hospital.

“I’ve been in touch with Archie’s mother – she is disgusted.”

Appeal judges were asked to delay today’s hearing after the family’s legal team revealed that Mr Battersbee, who is aged in his 50s, had been taken to hospital.

It’s feared that he suffered a heart attack or stroke. But appeal judges refused to adjourn the ruling.

Undated family handout photo of Archie Battersbee's brother Tom Summers kissing Archie on the head in hospital. A US-based doctor has told a judge asked to make decisions about the future of a boy at the centre of a life-support treatment dispute that he knows of cases where people diagnosed as being dead by Image: Archie’s brother Tom Summers kisses him on the head in hospital

A ‘tragedy of immeasurable dimensions’

Earlier this month, a High Court judge ruled doctors could lawfully stop providing life-support treatment.

Mr Justice Hayden described what had happened to Archie as a “tragedy of immeasurable dimensions”.

He said medical evidence was “compelling and unanimous” and painted a “bleak” picture.

The judge said evidence showed that Archie had suffered a “significant injury” to “multiple areas” of his brain and had not “regained awareness at any time”.

But Archie’s parents said the judge made errors and wanted the appeal court to remit the case to another High Court judge for another hearing.

Read more:
High Court rules boy’s life support treatment should end

Judges heard how medical evidence shows Archie is in a “comatose state”.

Barrister Edward Devereux QC, leading the legal team for Archie’s parents, had argued at the appeal hearing that Mr Justice Hayden had not given “real or proper weight” to Archie’s previously expressed wishes and religious beliefs.

He also argued the High Court judge had not given “real or proper weight” to Archie’s family’s wishes; had failed to carry out a “comprehensive evaluation” of the benefits and burdens of continuing life-support treatment; and had been wrong to conclude that treatment was burdensome and futile.

Boy has not regained consciousness

Archie has been at the centre of a legal dispute after he was seriously injured in an incident at his home in Essex in April.

His mother, Ms Dance, said she found him unconscious with a ligature over his head on 7 April and thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge. He has not regained consciousness.

Doctors treating Archie at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, think he is brain-stem dead and say continued life-support treatment is not in his best interests.

Bosses at the hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, had asked for decisions on what medical moves were in the boy’s best interests.

Another High Court judge, Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, initially considered the case and concluded Archie was dead.

But Court of Appeal judges upheld a challenge by his parents against decisions taken by Mrs Justice Arbuthnot and said evidence should be reviewed by Mr Justice Hayden.