Boy’s life-support case raises ‘significant question about meaning of death’

A High Court judge is scheduled to deliver a ruling on Archie’s Battersbee’s future on Monday.

10 June 2022

An organisation which campaigns for Christian rights says a life-support treatment case involving a 12-year-old boy who has suffered brain damage raises a “significant moral, legal and medical question” about the meaning of death.

The Christian Legal Centre says Archie Battersbee’s case is the first of its kind in England.

A High Court judge is scheduled to deliver a ruling on Archie’s future on Monday.

Doctors treating Archie at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, think he is “brain-stem dead”.

They say life-support treatment should end and Archie should be disconnected from a ventilator.

Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, from Southend, Essex, say the youngster’s heart is still beating and want treatment to continue.

Archie Battersbee incident
Mother of Archie Battersbee, Hollie Dance, outside the High Court (James Manning/PA)

Lawyers representing the Royal London Hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, have asked Mrs Justice Arbuthnot to decide what moves are in Archie’s best interests.

She finished overseeing a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London last week.

“This case raises the significant moral, legal and medical question as to when a person is dead,” said  Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Archie’s family.

“Archie’s parents do not accept that he is dead and are fighting for his life.

“There is no clear definition of death in English law, and a case like this has never come before an English court before.

“The outcome is crucial for Archie and his family and anyone who cares about the value of life in this country.

“The medical expert opinion presented in court is clear in that the whole concept of ‘brain death’ is now discredited, and in any event, Archie cannot be reliably diagnosed as brain-dead.”

She added: “We are praying for the judge to be granted wisdom to reach the right decision.”

Archie Battersbee court case
Archie Battersbee’s father Paul Battersbee outside the High Court in central London (James Manning/PA)

The judge heard that Archie suffered brain damage in an incident at home in early April.

Ms Dance told how she found him unconscious with a ligature over his head on April 7 and thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge.

The youngster has not regained consciousness.

Lawyers representing Archie’s family have told the judge that his heart is still beating – and his mother said he had gripped her hand.

They also say there was an issue as to whether “the correct procedure” had been followed, and whether the “family’s views” had been taken into account.

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