Archie Battersbee's life support to be switched off on Tuesday after High Court bid fails

Archie Battersbee.
Credit: Family photo
Archie Battersbee has been unconscious since being found with a ligature over his head in April. Credit: PA

Life-support treatment for 12-year-old Archie Battersbee will be stopped on Tuesday after a court rejected a last-minute bid for a postponement from his family.

Archie's parents were granted a hearing on Monday morning after the health secretary stepped in on Sunday night to ask the courts to "urgently consider" a request from the United Nations to continue his treatment.

His care at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, had been due to end at 2pm on Monday.

But after considering the case, the court refused to postpone the withdrawal of life-support treatment any longer than midday on Tuesday.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, the head of the family division at the High Court, said: "I conclude there should be be no stay granted other than a short stay for the parents to take stock and decide if they want to make any further application to the Supreme Court."

The judge said the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the UN committee based its request on, 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.”

He added: “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.”

The judge said that was the decision that has been taken in the courts of England and Wales.

The court adjourned briefly to allow lawyers representing Archie’s parents to take instructions from them about a possible bid to ask the Supreme Court for permission to appeal against the decision.

The judges refused to grant permission to appeal against their ruling at the Supreme Court, but Archie’s parents have indicated they will appeal to the highest court in the country.

In a statement, Archie's mother Hollie Dance said: “We continue to be shocked and traumatised by the brutality of the UK courts and the hospital trust.

“Our wishes as parents continue to be trampled on and ignored. We do not understand the urgency and rush to end life-support.

The hospital trust has at no point given us time to come to terms with what has happened.

“This is no way for a compassionate society to treat a family in our situation. We will continue to fight for Archie.”

Archie's parents Paul Battersbee and Holly Dance say they will "fight to the end". Credit: PA

Speaking outside The Royal London Hospital after the ruling on Monday, Archie’s mother, Hollie Dance, said: “We made a promise to Archie, we will fight to the end. And Archie’s still fighting.

“If tomorrow’s the last day then so be it, but we will be applying to the Supreme Court.”

Ms Dance said cutting off the life support would not be fair to her son.

She said: “I’ve got my son’s best interests at heart – Paul, and the siblings – nobody else has got Archie’s best interests at heart.

“And I say, and I still stand by it, Archie’s best interests would be to allow that child time to recover. If he doesn’t recover he doesn’t recover, but give him time to recover.”

Edward Devereux QC, acting for Ms Dance and Mr Battersbee, had argued that the UN committee’s request was “binding” under international law.

However, lawyers representing both the trust and Archie’s guardian – an independent expert appointed to make submissions about his welfare – argued the request was not enforceable.

Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

What happened to Archie Battersbee?

Archie has been unconscious since being found at home with a ligature over his head on 7 April, and doctors believe he is brain-stem dead.

The High Court ruled that doctors could legally withdraw his life support, judging it to be in his best interests, a decision backed by the Court of Appeal.

But his parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, had appealed for the youngster to be given more time.

Archie's family received a letter over the weekend, explaining the process for withdrawing life support, due to happen at 2pm on Monday, leading them to request the health secretary to intervene.

A last-minute hearing was held on Monday for the court to consider granting Archie a stay until the UN had fully considered the case.

Archie Battersbee has not regained consciousness since 7 April. Credit: Family photo

At Monday's hearing, lawyers for the hospital trust caring for Archie said the UN's intervention did not affect how they wanted to proceed, and that the court's order that treatment should end could only be overruled by a new court order.

Fiona Paterson, for Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “The request does not affect the trust’s position in these proceedings – that as a result of [Mr Justice Hayden’s] order of 15 July, the trust is obliged to cease Archie’s life-sustaining treatment, the learned judge having declared that it is in his best interests to do so."

In his ruling, Sir Andrew referred to the medical evidence before Mr Justice Hayden, who ruled that Archie’s life-sustaining treatment should be withdrawn.

The judge said: “In short, his system, his organs and, ultimately, his heart are in the process of closing down. The options before the court have always been stark.”

Sir Andrew said the options before the courts on previous occasions were either that treatment was withdrawn immediately, resulting in Archie’s death a short while later, or the option favoured by his parents that he would die at some time in the coming weeks – in their words at a time “chosen by God”.

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