Archie Battersbee: Judge rules that 12-year-old's life support should stop

  • Watch Charlie Frost's report for ITV News Anglia as Archie's family heard the news

The life-support treatment of a 12-year-old boy who suffered "catastrophic" brain damage should stop, a High Court judge has ruled.

Doctors treating Archie Battersbee said tests showed that the youngster was "brain-stem dead", that he had a low chance of recovery and that it was in his best interests to bring treatment to an end.

Mrs Justice Arbuthnot of the Family Division of the High Court on Monday ruled that Archie was dead and said doctors at the Royal London Hospital in east London could lawfully stop treating him.

The hospital's health trust said in a statement following the judgement that treatment would not be stopped until Archie's family had made a decision on whether or not to appeal.

They have already signalled that they will appeal.

In a statement immediately following the judgement, Archie's mother Hollie Dance said: "This is only the start. I will not give up on my son."

Archie Battersbee was found unconscious at home on 7 April. Credit: Hollie Dance

Ms Dance, of Southend in Essex, added: “I am devastated and extremely disappointed by the judge’s ruling after weeks of fighting a legal battle when I wanted to be at my little boy’s bedside.

“Basing the judgment on an MRI test - which is the first time ever - and that he is ‘likely’ to be dead, is not good enough. This is believed to be the first time that someone has been declared ‘likely’ to be dead by an MRI test.

“The medical expert opinion presented in court was clear in that the whole concept of ‘brain death’ is now discredited, and in any event, Archie cannot be reliably diagnosed as brain-dead."

She added: “I feel sickened that the hospital and the judge have failed to take the wishes of the family into consideration. I do not believe Archie has been given enough time. From the beginning I have always thought ‘what is the rush?’

“His heart is still beating, he has gripped my hand, and as his mother, and with my gut instinct, I know he is still in there. Until it’s God’s way I won’t accept he should go. I know of miracles when people have come back from being brain-dead."

She said the case raised "significant moral, legal and medical questions" over the definition of death.

Hollie Dance is supported by friends and family after making her statement following the judgement. Credit: PA

Brain death 'conclusively established'

In a written ruling, the judge said: “I find that Archie died at noon on May 31 2022, which was shortly after the MRI scans taken that day.

“I find that irreversible cessation of brain stem function has been conclusively established. I give permission to the medical professionals at the Royal London Hospital to cease to ventilate mechanically Archie Battersbee.”

She added: “If Archie remains on mechanical ventilation, the likely outcome for him is sudden death and the prospects of recovery are nil.

“He has no pleasure in life and his brain damage is irrecoverable. His position is not going to improve.

“The downside of such a hurried death is the inability of his loving and beloved family to say goodbye.”

The judge said that, had she not concluded Archie is dead, she would have ruled that it was not in his best interests to continue to receive life-support treatment.

Archie's parents, Paul Battersbee and Ms Dance, had told the court their son's heart was still beating. They believe he has been responding to them, including squeezing their hands.

Lawyers representing the trust of the Royal London Hospital, Barts Health NHS Trust, had asked Mrs Justice Arbuthnot to decide what moves were in his best interests.

Archie Battersbee is being treated at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Credit: Family photo

Last week she oversaw a final hearing lasting three days, and then retired to consider her judgement, which was delivered at the Family Division of the High Court on Monday.

She heard that Archie had been in an induced coma since being found unconscious at home on 7 April.

He was found with a ligature over his head and his mother believes he had been taking part in an online challenge.

Hollie Dance, Archie Battersbee's mother, outside the High Court. Credit: James Manning/PA

A specialist had earlier told the court that said tests on Archie had shown no “discernible” brain activity, but revealed “significant areas of tissue necrosis”, and she added: “We believe that it is very likely that he is brain-stem dead.”

Lawyers for Archie's family say there is an issue as to whether “the correct procedure” had been followed, and whether the “family’s views” had been taken into account.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know