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Archie Battersbee can be removed from life support over parents' objections, judge rules

Hospital
The Royal London Hospital |

The parents of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee are again seeking permission to appeal after a high court judge ruled Friday that a London hospital can remove the boy's life support against the parents' wishes. 

In a judgment handed down in the High Court of Justice Family Division, Justice Anthony Hayden ruled that it is in the child's "best interests" for the life support to be removed. The boy was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck on April 7 and suffered a "catastrophic hypoxic ischaemic brain injury." 

Archie Battersbee
Archie Battersbee |

Archie's parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, appeared in court Monday after being granted permission to appeal an initial ruling last month to allow the hospital to discontinue his care.

"Where, as here, the treatment is futile, it compromises Archie's dignity, deprives him of his autonomy, and becomes wholly inimical to his welfare," Hayden wrote in his ruling. "It serves only to protract his death, whilst being unable to prolong his life." 

"Having come to this conclusion, there emerges the prospect of an end to Archie's life, which reverberates more closely with the way he lived in the past." 

Hayden wrote that "arrangements" can be made that will afford Battersbee the opportunity "to die in peaceful circumstances and in the embrace of the family he loved."

According to a Friday statement from the Christian Legal Centre, which is representing the family, the parents are seeking permission to appeal. 

"This ruling is a crushing blow to Archie and his family. With all due respect to Mr. Justice Hayden, it is not in Archie's best interests to die," Battersbee's mother said in a statement following the ruling.

Dance contends that "planned death" is another name for euthanasia.

"The 'planned' removal of the ventilator is definitely the worst thing that may happen from my point of view. I cannot see how this is in any way dignified," Dance asserted.

"We disagree with the idea of dignity in death. Enforcing it on us and hastening his death for that purpose is profoundly cruel," she continued. "It is for God to decide what should happen to Archie, including if, when and how he should die." 

The mother said she "cannot betray" her son as long as he is "fighting for his life."

During her testimony, Dance said she once spoke with her son about whether he would want life support removed if he were ever in such a situation. Battersbee reportedly said he wouldn't care if he was on life support as long as he was with his mother.

When asked by Hayden if his son would want his care to continue, Paul Battersbee testified that his son is a "proper mummies boy, and he would not want to leave her."

In her witness statement, Dance said that a do-not-resuscitate order has been placed on her son without the family's consent. 

CLC Chief Executive Andrea Williams called the ruling another "devastating blow" and argues that Battersebee's case proves that "systematic reform is needed to protect the vulnerable and their families in end-of-life matters."

In a separate decision handed down in the Family Division of the High Court last month, Justice Emma Arbuthnot ruled that medical professionals at Royal London Hospital could remove Archie Battersbee's life support.

Arbuthnot wrote that Battersbee is likely dead "on the balance of probabilities." She permitted the parents to appeal the decision. 

"It is clear from the anxious and careful scrutiny of all the evidence including from clinicians with different specialisms from five separate hospitals that tragically on the balance of probabilities, Archie is dead," her opinion reads. 

The judge gave "permission to the medical professionals at the Royal London Hospital (1) to cease to ventilate mechanically Archie Battersbee; (2) to extubate Archie Battersbee; (3) to cease the administration of medication to Archie Battersbee and (4) not to attempt any cardio or pulmonary resuscitation on Archie Battersbee when cardiac output ceases or respiratory effort ceases."

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