Hospital bosses have told a judge that a 12-year-old boy at the centre of a life-treatment dispute after suffering “devastating” brain damage will probably never regain consciousness or breathe independently again.
Lawyers representing specialists treating Archie Battersbee at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, told Mrs Justice Arbuthnot on Thursday that a “final hearing” should be staged soon and a decision should be made about whether to remove him from a ventilator and end treatment.
They said two specialists had attempted a nerve stimulation test on Archie on Monday, but “no response” had been detected.
Archie’s mother, Hollie Dance, 46, of Southend, Essex, has told how she found him with a ligature over his head on April 7, and thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge.
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot is considering the latest stage of the case at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
She has heard how specialists treating Archie think it “highly likely” he is dead and say life-support treatment should end.
A barrister leading the legal team representing the hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, told the judge on Thursday that a “final hearing” should be staged.
Fiona Paterson said that hearing should take place in the next two weeks.
“The trust remains concerned by the inherently unstable nature of Archie’s condition, by virtue of his injuries, which could lead to his rapid deterioration with little or no warning,” she said.
“The issue with which the court is seized is whether it is in Archie’s best interests to continue to mechanically ventilate him.
“The trust submits that very sadly, all of the evidence… indicates that it is probable that Archie will never regain consciousness (or awareness) nor will he breathe independently again.”
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot concluded last Friday (13 May) that a brain-stem test would be in Archie's best interests after a doctor told her that the brain stem was responsible for the functions which kept people alive.
The judge was told that specialists treating Archie at the east London hospital thought it “highly likely” the youngster was dead.
Ms Paterson, for the trust, said the two specialists had planned to carry out such a test on Monday but decided not to proceed after first conducting a “peripheral nerve stimulation test” in which no response was detected.
“Regardless of whether a patient is brain-stem dead or brain-stem alive, the test should produce responses in the form of small twitches in specified muscles,” she said in a written argument.
“It is used to rule out any supervening physical cause for an absence of response by the patient to any one of the seven parts of the brain-stem test, each of which are directed towards triggering a response in the patient which involve movement(s) in a muscle group(s).
“Unfortunately, when the peripheral nerve stimulation test was attempted on Archie, no response was detected.”
She added: “Both doctors concluded that they could not proceed with the brain-stem assessment as it appeared that no response would be elicited from Archie during the brain-stem testing regardless of whether his brain stem was functioning or not.”
Archie's parents are fighting to keep him on life support.
Ms Dance, who wept as Mrs Justice Arbuthnot delivered her ruling last week, has pleaded for more time - saying she believed her son was aware of what was going on around him and that he had squeezed her fingers.
“He has squeezed my fingers with a tight grip," she said after the ruling last week.
“I think that’s his way of letting me know he’s still here and just needs more time.”She added: “Until it’s God’s way I won’t accept he should go.
“I know of miracles when people have come back from being brain dead.“ He may not be the same as he was, but if there’s a possibility he could live a happy life after this, I want to give it to him.”
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, who heard that Archie had suffered “catastrophic” brain damage, said Archie’s family, and clinicians, needed to know the results of the brain-stem test.
“I understand on a human level the family’s anguish,” she said.
“Anyone can appreciate how much they must dread the result.”
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot oversaw a private hearing but said Archie could be named in media reports of the case.
A campaign organisation called the Christian Legal Centre said it is supporting Archie’s family.
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