Archie Battersbee's life support can be switched off, rules court despite UN intervention

Parents’ bid to prolong 12-year-old's treatment fails

Archie Battersbee was set to have his support treatment ended on Monday. PA
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The family of a brain-damaged boy have lost their last-minute court bid to prevent his life-support from being switched off.

The UK's Court of Appeal refused to postpone the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from 12-year-old Archie Battersbee beyond midday on Tuesday.

It was due to have been switched off at 2pm on Monday at the Royal London Hospital in east London, after a lengthy legal battle in which a High Court judge ruled this to be in his best interests.

However, one final court hearing was introduced after an intervention from the United Nations.

Judges heard that Archie's mother found him unconscious with a ligature over his head on April 7. She believes he took part in an online challenge.

Doctors believe Archie is brain-stem dead and say continued life-support treatment is not in his best interests.

The decision was later backed by the Court of Appeal, so Archie’s family applied to the UN as a final attempt to prevent their son’s treatment from being stopped, with the committee contacting the British government on Friday.

The Court of Appeal was granted a virtual hearing for 11am after the government asked it to “urgently consider” a request from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to continue his treatment so the committee could examine his case.

A picture of Archie Battersbee released by his family. PA

However, Sir Andrew McFarlane, sitting with Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Moylan, said on Monday afternoon: “My decision is that, save for granting a short stay until 12 noon tomorrow, the parents’ application for any further stay is dismissed.”

The judge said the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on which the UN committee based its request, is an “unincorporated international treaty”.

He said: “It is not part of the law of the United Kingdom … and it is not appropriate for this court to apply an unincorporated international treaty into its decision-making process.”

"Every day that [Archie] continues to be given life-sustaining treatment is contrary to his best interests and, so, a stay, even for a short time, is against his best interests.”

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, had written to the family at the weekend to inform them that they intended to end treatment on Monday afternoon.

Speaking on Monday morning, Archie's mother Hollie Dance said the last couple of months had been “an emotional rollercoaster”.

“It has been very draining,” she told Sky News. "Stress levels are through the roof. Very heartbreaking. It has been a very hard few months."

Asked how she was feeling about how successful today’s hearing might be, she said: “I don’t know really. I guess because of all the court appearances and things that we have had now, and it seems … everything, apart from obviously the appeal that we won, everything seems to go in the trust’s favour.

“It has just left me feeling very anxious all weekend. I have carried a lot of anxiety here in my chest. It just feels awful.”

Ms Dance said the family felt “relieved” that the government had taken the UN’s intervention seriously.

“This was not a ‘request’ but an interim measures injunction from the UN,” she said on Sunday.

“The anxiety of being told that Archie’s life-support will be removed tomorrow at 2pm has been horrific.

“We are already broken and the not knowing what was going to happen next is excruciating.”

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

Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts Health NHS Trust, said the plan to withdraw medical treatment would proceed unless the court directed otherwise on Monday.

“Our deepest sympathies are with Archie’s family at this difficult time,” he said.

“We understand a court hearing will take place on Monday morning and we await the outcome.

“The plan to withdraw treatment will proceed unless the court directs otherwise.”

The trust previously said in a letter to Ms Dance and Paul Battersbee, who are separated but both live in Southend, Essex, that the withdrawal process would aim to “preserve Archie’s dignity”.

The trust said in the letter: “We understand that any discussions around the withdrawal of Archie’s treatment are very difficult and painful.

“However, we want to ensure that you and your family are involved as much as you wish to be.”

“You or any of the family may wish to lie on Archie’s bed with him or have him in your arms, if that should be practically possible.”

Ms Dance said this would amount to “extraordinary cruelty” and a “flagrant breach of Archie’s rights as a disabled person”.

“Archie is entitled to have the decisions about his life and death, taken by the NHS and UK courts, to be scrutinised by an international human rights body,” she said.

“Hastening his death to prevent that would be completely unacceptable.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We recognise this is an exceptionally difficult time for Archie Battersbee’s family and our thoughts are with them.

“The government asked the High Court to urgently consider the request from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Updated: August 01, 2022, 4:18 PM