The parents of a 12-year-old boy left brain-damaged and in a comatose state have been given fresh hope after the United Nations stated his life support should not be removed.
Archie Battersbee’s mother and father, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, made an application to a UN Committee after losing life-support treatment fights in London courts.
The United Nations UN Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (UN CRPD) has now stated that the UK government must keep Archie alive while the committee considers the case.
It says that life-support should not be removed while the matter is considered, despite rulings from the highest UK courts and most senior judges this week. The UN has now written to Archie’s parents and legal team saying it had "requested the state party [the UK] to refrain from withdrawing life-preserving medical treatment, including mechanical ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration, from the alleged victim while the case is under consideration by the committee".
It added that "this request does not imply that any decision has been reached on the substance of the matter under consideration".
The UK has an obligation under international human rights law to comply with interim measures indicated by the committee, said the charity supporting the family.
Responding to the news, Archie’s mum, Hollie Dance, said: “I am so grateful to the UN for their response and acting so quickly for my son.
"We have been under so much stress and anxiety; we are already broken and the not knowing what was going to happen next was excruciating. To get this news now means everything.
“This is the first time this has ever happened in history of this inhumane system in the UK.
"There have been so many ups and downs, but we have put on the full armour of God, gone into the battle and now we have given Archie time. That is all we have ever asked for.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre who have been supporting the families’ case, said: "We are delighted with the response from the UN.
"It is high time that the UK’s processes around proactively ending children’s lives came under international scrutiny.
“We now hope and pray that the UN committee may do justice to Archie and his family, as well as to other disabled people in UK hospitals in future cases.
“Life is the most precious gift we have.
“We have stood with the family from the beginning three months ago following the tragedy and now continue to pray for this beautiful boy, Archie, and for everyone involved.”
What happened to Archie Battersbee?
Archie suffered “catastrophic” brain damage in an accident at home three months ago.
His mother 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.
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, and are being supported by the campaign group 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.
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.
At a second hearing, 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”.
But his family also appealed that decision arguing that Mr Justice Hayden had not given “real or proper weight” to the wishes and religious beliefs of Archie or his family, and had failed to carry out a “comprehensive evaluation” of the benefits and burdens of continuing life-support treatment - an appeal rejected by the Court of Appeal.
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know