Archie Battersbee's family reveal emotional toll of life-support fight for Southend youngster

Hollie Dance
Credit: PA
Hollie Dance described the last few months as an "emotional rollercoaster". Credit: PA

The mother of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee has spoken of her anxiety and heartbreak ahead of a last-minute hearing about whether life-support treatment should be withdrawn from her son just hours before it is due to end.

The Court of Appeal has granted a virtual hearing for 11am on Monday after the government asked it to “urgently consider” a request from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to continue his treatment so the committee can examine his case.

The youngster is due to have his life support at the Royal London Hospital in east London ended at 2pm on Monday, following a lengthy legal battle in which a High Court judge ruled this to be in his best interests.

The decision was later backed by the Court of Appeal and Archie’s family applied to the UN as a final attempt to prevent their son’s treatment from being stopped, with the committee contacting the government on Friday.

A legal “stay” to prevent treatment being ended has also been put in place until 1pm on Monday.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, wrote to the family over the weekend to inform them it intends to end treatment on Monday afternoon.

Archie Battersbee's life support could be switched off on Monday. Credit: Family photo

Archie’s mother, Hollie Dance, said the family have had “no support whatsoever” from the trust, telling Sky News: “Absolutely none. I know they come across to the media as supportive and compassionate. It’s very much the opposite. It’s very misleading.”

Ms Dance said she was handed a letter on Saturday night with the “choreographed execution” of Archie.

“There was no meeting, sat down and broken to gently,” she said, adding that they were handed the letter and “just left to deal with our own feelings”.

She added: “It’s just caused so much stress. This could have been totally prevented and handled totally different to how it’s been handled. We shouldn’t have been dragged through the courts.”

Ms Dance said the last couple of months had been “an emotional rollercoaster”.

“It’s been very draining. Stress levels are through the roof. Very heart-breaking. It’s been a very hard few months.”

Looking ahead to Monday’s hearing, she said: “It’s just left me feeling very anxious all weekend. I’ve carried a lot of anxiety here in my chest. It just feels awful.”

Ms Dance said citizens should not have to go beyond the justice system for the “right thing” to be done.

She asked for the government to assess the judgement of the courts, and said she was grateful to the health secretary for his intervention.

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

What does the hospital say?

Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts Health NHS Trust, said the plan to withdraw medical treatment would proceed unless the court directs otherwise on Monday.

He said: “Our deepest sympathies are with Archie’s family at this difficult time.

“We understand a court hearing will take place on Monday morning and we await the outcome.

“The plan to withdraw treatment will proceed unless the court directs otherwise.”

The trust previously said in a letter to Ms Dance and Archie’s father, Paul Battersbee, who are separated but both live in Southend, Essex, that the withdrawal process will aim to “preserve Archie’s dignity”.

The trust said in the letter: “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.”

It added: “You or any of the family may wish to lie on Archie’s bed with him or have him in your arms, if that should be practically possible.”

Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer of Barts Health NHS Trust, speaking after a court ruling in June. Credit: PA

Judges heard that Ms Dance found Archie unconscious with a ligature over his head on April 7, after she believes he took part in an online challenge.

Doctors believe Archie is brain-stem dead and say continued life-support treatment is not in his best interests.

A spokesman 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.”

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