Archie Battersbee: Appeal judges rule that doctors can stop life-support treatment

  • It was a legal ruling Hollie Dance had hoped she wouldn't hear, reports Sejal Karia

Court of Appeal judges have refused an appeal from the family of Archie Battersbee, the 12-year-old boy at the centre of a court battle over his life-support treatment.

Archie's parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, of Southend, Essex, mounted the appeal bid after a High Court judge ruled that doctors could lawfully stop treatment.

Sir Andrew McFarlane – the president of the Family Division of the High Court and the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Peter Jackson - on Monday rejected the appeal, ruling that doctors could stop life-support treatment.

The judges had been asked to postpone their ruling after being told that Archie's father was taken ill shortly before the hearing and gone to hospital.

A lawyer representing Archie’s parents said his mother thought her son had been trying to breathe independently.

Sir Andrew, said in a detailed ruling on the appeal bid that medical staff had seen “no signs of life” in Archie.

He said the case had received widespread media coverage – including a photograph of Archie.

“Archie is no longer the boy in the photograph,” said Sir Andrew. “He is someone whose every bodily function is now maintained by artificial means.”

His family have since signalled that they would not give up and intended to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Archie suffered “catastrophic” brain damage in an accident at home three months ago.

Lawyers for the family last week argued that Mr Justice Hayden had not given “real or proper weight” to Archie’s previously expressed wishes and religious beliefs, nor given “real or proper weight” to Archie’s family’s wishes.

Barrister Edward Devereux QC also said the judge 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.

They were appealing to the Court of Appeal for the decision to be sent back to the High Court for a third time.

Mr Justice Hayden delivered a ruling on 15 July after reviewing evidence at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He described what happened to Archie as a “tragedy of immeasurable dimensions”, but said medical evidence was “compelling and unanimous” and painted a “bleak” picture.

Mr Justice Hayden heard how Ms Dance found Archie unconscious with a ligature over his head on 7 April. She thinks he may have been taking part in an online challenge.

The youngster has not regained consciousness.

Archie Battersbee's parents Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance at the Royal Courts of Justice. Credit: PA

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.

Archie’s parents disagree and say his heart is beating. They are being supported by a campaign group called the Christian Legal Centre.

Lawyers representing the Royal London Hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, had asked for decisions about what medical moves are in Archie’s best interests.

Archie Battersbee, 12, is at the centre of a legal dispute Credit: Family handout/PA

Another High Court judge, Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, initially considered the case and concluded, after an earlier hearing, that Archie was dead.

But Court of Appeal judges upheld a challenge by Archie’s parents against decisions taken by Mrs Justice Arbuthnot and said the evidence should be reviewed.

Mr Justice Hayden said evidence shows Archie suffered a “significant injury” to “multiple areas” of his brain and had not “regained awareness at any time”. He said the reality of Archie’s case was “terrible”.

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