'It's the end': Last appeal to keep Archie Battersbee's life-support denied by European court

Archie Battersbee.
Credit: Family photo
Archie Battersbee has been at the centre of a court battle for nearly four months. Credit: Family photo

The European Court of Human Rights has refused to intervene in the case of Archie Battersbee, ending his family's hopes that his life-support treatment can continue.

The 12-year-old has been in a comatose state with catastrophic brain damage since being found unconscious at home in Southend on 7 April.

Archie's mum Hollie Dance said: “It’s the end, it was the last thing, wasn’t it? And again our country have failed a 12-year-old child.”

Judges have ruled that as he has no realistic chance of recovery it is in his best interests for life-sustaining medical care to be withdrawn, and his family have seen their many appeals rejected.

Archie's family have been given until 9am on Thursday to launch a High Court bid to move him to a hospice, otherwise his life support will be turned off at 11am.

Hollie Dance speaks to reporters outside the Royal London Hospital on Wednesday. Credit: PA

A spokeswoman for the family said: “We think it is completely barbaric and absolutely disgusting that we’re not even allowed to choose where Archie takes his last moments."

Barts Health NHS Trust has said Archie’s condition is too unstable for a transfer and that moving him by ambulance to a different setting “would most likely hasten the premature deterioration the family wish to avoid".

Archie's family submitted a bid to the ECHR on Wednesday morning, pushing back the withdrawal of his care - which had been due to start at 11am - while the case was considered.

In a statement delivered shortly after 6.30pm, the European Court of Human Rights said it “would not interfere” with the decisions of UK courts that life-support treatment should be withdrawn.

The statement added the court would only grant such requests “on an exceptional basis” and “when the applicants would otherwise face a real risk of irreversible harm”.

In response, Ms Dance called the ECHR's decision “another heart-breaking development”.

In a statement, she said: “The NHS, the government and the courts in this country and Europe may have given up on treating him, but we have not. .. we will fight to the end for Archie’s right to live.”

However, shortly after, she suggested the legal battle was over.

Ms Dance said she “won’t allow” anything to be done before Archie's father returns to his bedside at the hospital on Thursday morning.

The parents of Archie Battersbee, Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance. Credit: PA

The appeal to the ECHR was the latest in a series of legal bids lodged in the past week by the family.

At their request, a UN committee last weekend intervened to ask the UK government to postpone the withdrawal of life support while it considered Archie's case.

At a last-minute hearing organised at the request of the health secretary on Monday, lawyers representing Archie's parents told judges that, unless the withdrawal of his life-sustaining treatment was postponed, the court would be “complicit” in a “flagrant breach of international law”.

But Court of Appeal judges ruled that the UN was not part of UK law, adding: “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.”

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

A direct appeal to the Supreme Court from Archie's parents on Tuesday was refused, with a panel of three judges saying that after assessing the grounds of the appeal, they had concluded that previous judges had been "correct".

The hospital trust caring for Archie told his parents that life support would be withdrawn from 11am on Wednesday, unless an appeal was made to the European Court of Human Rights by 9am.

After they met that deadline, they then faced a wait for its judgement, which came more than nine hours later.

The trust which runs the Royal London Hospital, where Archie is being treated, said it would not begin withdrawing life-support treatment until the legal proceedings had been concluded.

But it has repeatedly stated that it intends to follow court orders, and doctors would not continue treating the youngster unless a new court ruling ordered them to do so.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ms Dance said doctors in other countries had offered to continue Archie's life-support treatment, and promised to “fight ’til the bitter end” for her son.

Archie Battersbee timeline

Archie Battersbee - The story of a four-month court battle

7 April - Hollie Dance finds Archie unconscious in their home in Southend, Essex, with a ligature over his head. She believes he was taking part in an online challenge.

8 April - Archie is moved to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.

26 April - Barts Health Trust, which runs the Royal London Hospital, starts High Court proceedings to run brain stem tests. Hollie Dance urges judge Mrs Justice Arbuthnot to not approve the brain stem tests to "give him [Archie] time to fight back".

13 May - Mrs Justice Arbuthnot rules brain stem tests should be carried out

16 May -Two specialists at Royal London Hospital try to conduct brain stem tests but are unable to do so as Archie fails to respond to peripheral nerve stimulation test.

25 May - A hearing is held to decide if further MRI scans should be conducted. Ms Dance and Paul Battersbee, Archie's father, do not consent as they fear moving Archie will cause him harm.

27 May - Court approves that further MRI scans should be conducted.

31 May - MRI scans conducted.

6-8 June - Court hearing held to decide if Archie's life support treatment should continue. Specialists say it is highly likely that Archie is "brain stem dead", and that tests conducted showed no discernible brain activity, revealing "significant areas of tissue necrosis". A doctor for the family tells the court he knows of cases where people diagnosed as being dead by "neurological criteria" have been proven to be alive.

13 June 2022 - Mrs Justice Arbuthnot rules that Archie is dead based on MRI scan results. "I find that Archie died at noon on Monday 31 May 2022, which was shortly after the MRI scans taken that day," she rules. Archie's family immediately indicate they will apply for permission to appeal the decision.

20 June - The family mount an appeal to the same judge, arguing that evidence had not shown “beyond reasonable doubt” that the youngster was dead. Mrs Justice Arbuthnot agrees that the family have a "compelling" case and the matter is sent to the Court of Appeal.

29 June - Three Court of Appeal judges uphold the family's appeal, and order a fresh hearing to take place at the High Court in front of a different judge.

11 July - The new hearing begins in the High Court before Mr Justice Hayden. Doctors treating Archie at Royal London Hospital argue that continuing the treatment will only "delay the inevitable".

15 July - Mr Justice Hayden concludes that doctors can lawfully stop providing life-support treatment, calling the medical evidence "compelling and unanimous". He adds: "There are unfortunately no treatments possible to reverse the damage that has been caused to Archie's brain." Once again, Archie's family say they will appeal the decision.

25 July - Three Court of Appeal judges hear the appeal, but back Mr Justice Hayden's ruling that treatment can end as it is in Archie's best interests. A stay is put in place for Archie's treatment to continue until 2pm on 27 July.

27 July - As the stay expires, Archie's family are given a further 24 hours to appeal to European Court of Human Rights. However, they say that court has a "track record" of rejecting cases such as Archie's and instead want to go to the United Nations. They apply to the Supreme Court to be allowed to appeal to the UN.

28 July - Supreme Court judges refuse to intervene, and support the Court of Appeal ruling that Royal London Hospital can withdraw life support treatment lawfully.

29 July - Archie's family make an application to the UN, under a protocol which allows individuals and families to make complaints about violation of disabled people's rights).

30 July - The UN issues the UK government's legal department with a request so that it has time to consider Archie's case.

31 July - The UK government asks the High Court to delay the withdrawal of treatment so that the UN has time to consider the case.

1 August - A last-minute hearing organised at the request of the health secretary. Lawyers representing Archie's parents say unless the withdrawal of life support treatment is postponed, the court would be "complicit" in "flagrant breach of international law". But Court of Appeal judges refuses to postpone the withdrawal of life-support, extending it only until midday on Tuesday, 2 August. The most senior family judge in the country says the UN convention is an "unconventional international treaty and is not part of UK law", and that it continues to be in Archie's best interests to stop treatment.

2 August - Archie’s parents are refused permission to appeal against the latest ruling at the Supreme Court. Ms Dance says Barts Health NHS Trust will begin to withdraw Archie’s life support on August 3 at 11am unless the family have submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights by 9am that day. The trust will not begin removing life-support until all legal issues have been resolved.

3 August - The European Court of Human Rights refuses the last-ditch application. Archie’s family say they intend to ask the High Court to allow the schoolboy to be moved to a hospice.

4 August - Nearly four months after Archie suffered traumatic head injuries, his parents formally lodge High Court proceedings over the move to hospice care – something the hospital opposes. Archie’s care continues. A hearing takes place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, lasting late into the evening.

5 August - Mrs Justice Theis rules it is not in Archie’s best interests to be moved to a hospice. The High Court judge refuses the family permission to appeal against her ruling, granting a stay on the withdrawal of Archie’s treatment until 2pm on Friday to allow them to go directly to the Court of Appeal.

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