Archie Battersbee's parents denied permission to appeal removal of son's life support

The Royal London Hospital |

The parents of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee were denied permission to appeal a second high court judge's decision to end his life support treatment. 

On Monday, three judges of the Court of Appeal in central London ruled on the side of a judgment handed down in the High Court of Justice Family Division earlier this month rejecting the parents' plea for their son's treatment to continue.

Archie's parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, will continue their legal battle to prevent their son's treatment from being withdrawn, according to the Christian Legal Centre, which is representing the family. 

Archie Battersbee
Archie Battersbee |

The boy was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck on April 7 and suffered a "catastrophic hypoxic ischaemic brain injury."

The judges stayed their decision for 48 hours to allow the parents time to apply to the European Court of Human Rights for interim relief. The decision comes after Dance shared a video that purports to show Battersbee making attempts to breathe over the weekend. 

"All we have asked for from the beginning is for Archie to be given more time and for Archie's wishes and ours to be respected. As long as Archie is alive, I will never give up on him. He is too good to give up on," Dance said in a statement. 

"When he is to die, we believe it should be in God's way and in God's time. What is the rush? Why is the hospital and the courts so keen to push this through as fast as possible?"

"I don't believe there is anything 'dignified' about planning Archie's death. For me, this would be the most traumatic outcome," she added. "Parents need support, not pressure. It is exhausting what we have been through. We should not have to endlessly battle the hospital in the courts for what we believe is right for Archie."

Edward Devereux QC, who is representing the parents, said that based on "new evidence," there may be an attempt to apply for another hearing at the high court. He told the court that  Dance had seen her son attempting to breathe independently on Friday and Saturday despite being attached to a ventilator. 

One of the judges, Sir Andrew McFarlane, rejected a request from Devereux to delay the decision whether to grant the parents' appeal due to a possible heart attack or stroke Paul Battersbee suffered on Monday morning, according to The Guardian

McFarlane, the president of the Family Division of the High Court, claimed it couldn't be determined when Paul Battersbee, who also suffered a heart attack last year, could attend court again. He also added that it wasn't in Archie Battersbee's best interests to delay the decision. 

Dance contends that the judges' decision not to adjourn the hearing was "insensitive." 

One of the arguments put forward by Devereux is that in an earlier ruling, Justice Hayden only considered Battersbee's medical interests and not his interest in remaining alive, citing the religious beliefs his family said he held. 

In a July 15 ruling, Hayden ruled that it is in the child's "best interests" for his life support to be removed. 

"While it is most sadly correct that it was the medical evidence that ultimately drove the outcome of the judge's best interests determination, he [Hayden] had clearly taken full account of the countervailing factors," McFarlane said, according to The Guardian. 

"Those factors — but in particular Archie's wishes and feelings and religious beliefs — were insufficient to avoid a finding that the continuation of life-supporting treatment was no longer in the best interests of this moribund child who is weeks away from a death which will otherwise occur from a further deterioration and then a failure of his organs followed by a failure of his heart."

"Consent can only be given to medical treatment where it is in the patient's best interests," he continued. 

McFarlane pointed to a photograph of Battersbee before he suffered the brain injury. Acknowledging that this is a "truly tragic case," the judge stated that Battersbee is "no longer the boy in the photograph." 

He noted that the child's "every bodily function is now maintained by artificial means." 

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.

Christian Legal Centre Chief Executive Andrea Williams said in a statement that the parents want their "critically ill son to have more time and to be given every chance of recovery, no matter how small those chances are."

"There is nothing 'dignified' about a choreographed, planned death at a specific time by removing the life-support of a critically ill child against the wishes of their parents," she stated.

"No family should have to endure endless court hearings over the hospital care of their sick children. Parents must be given more say in how their children are treated."

In a statement following Hayden's ruling, Dance stated 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," she said. 

"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."

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