Archie Battersbee: Government steps in after hospital says treatment will end on Monday
Archie's mum Hollie Dance reacting to the news that life support would be withdrawn
The government has intervened in the case of a 12-year-old boy in a comatose state whose treatment was due to end on Monday after his family lost a court battle.
The parents of Archie Battersbee had pleaded for the health secretary to intervene after the hospital treating the youngster informed them of their plans to legally withdraw life support on Monday.
Barts Health NHS Trust, which cares for Archie, said in a letter to his parents that “all fluid infusions, medications, including vasopressin will be stopped” at 2pm on 1 August.
The government legal department has now asked the High Court to “urgently consider” a UN request to prevent this.
The department said it had received a request from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on Friday, asking for time for it to consider Archie’s case following an application from the family.
The government letter, written on behalf of the Health Secretary, read: “In the circumstances, we wish to draw the (UN) committee’s request for interim measures to the Court’s attention for its urgent consideration.
“As the family division is seized of this matter, and the trust is acting pursuant to the order of the court, we request that this letter is placed before the out-of-hours judge immediately and/or, if possible, before Mr Justice Hayden.”
Following the government letter, Ms Dance said: “We are relieved that the government has taken the UN’s intervention seriously. This was not a ‘request’ but an interim measures injunction from the UN.
“The anxiety of being told that Archie’s life-support will be removed [on Monday] at 2pm has been horrific. We are already broken and the not-knowing what was going to happen next is excruciating.”
Ms Dance, from Southend, had earlier urged the health secretary to “act immediately” to stop the treatment ending, saying it would be “a flagrant breach” of his rights.
The hospital's letter, sent over the weekend, reads: “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."
Ms Dance and Paul Battersbee, the youngster’s parents, will be told on Monday morning how the withdrawal process is to be performed, with the aim to “preserve Archie’s dignity”, the letter read.
Archie's parents, who are separated, failed to persuade Court of Appeal judges to overturn that ruling and Supreme Court justices have refused to intervene.
Archie’s parents are being supported by campaign organisation, the Christian Legal Centre.
Writing to Health Secretary Stephen Barclay on Saturday, Ms Dance said: “If this happens, this will be an 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. Hastening his death to prevent that would be completely unacceptable.
“I trust that you will now act immediately, as a member of the Government responsible for the NHS, to ensure that this does not happen, and our country honours its obligations under the international human rights treaties which we have signed and ratified.”
They asked the United Nations to intervene in a “last-ditch” application.
The UN Committee On The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities has 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: “This request does not imply that any decision has been reached on the substance of the matter under consideration.”
Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts Health NHS Trust, said on Friday that "further delay" in starting to provide "palliative care" to Archie would "not be appropriate" without a court order.
"A spokesperson 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.”
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.
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