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Archie Battersbee's life support to end after UN appeal rejected

Hospital
The Royal London Hospital |

The Court of Appeal in the United Kingdom has refused a request from the United Nations to further delay the removal of life support from 12-year-old Archie Battersbee despite his parents' objections. 

Battersbee's life support could be removed as soon as midday Tuesday after the court rejected an interim measures injunction from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on Monday. 

Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division, granted parents Holly Dance and Paul Battersbee a brief stay until 12 p.m. Tuesday so they can appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court, according to a statement from the Christian Legal Centre, which is representing the family.

Archie Battersbee
Go Fund Me/Just for Archie

Battersbee was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck in April, suffering a "catastrophic hypoxic ischaemic brain injury." He has not regained consciousness. Doctors and judges have agreed that the child is brain dead. 

"We continue to be shocked and traumatised by the brutality of the U.K. courts and the hospital Trust," Dance said in a statement. "Our wishes as parents continue to be trampled on and ignored."

"We do not understand the urgency and rush to end life-support. The hospital Trust has at no point given us time to come to terms with what has happened," she continued. "This is no way for a compassionate society to treat a family in our situation. We will continue to fight for Archie."

The Court of Appeal held an online hearing Monday following interventions from the United Kingdom government and the UNCRPD in Battersbee's case. His parents have been engaged in an ongoing legal battle to prevent the removal of his life support. 

Barts Health NHS Trust, which is responsible for child's care at the Royal London Hospital, had initially set a deadline of 2 p.m. Monday to remove the life support. According to a CLC statement, a legal stay preventing the removal of Archie's life support was put back into place Monday. 

In a statement Sunday, Battersbee's family responded to remarks from Chief Medical Officer of Barts Health NHS Trust, Alistair Chesser, who stated the hospital was giving time for the parents to accept the decision by the courts that Battersbee's treatment should not continue. Chesser also added that there shouldn't be any more delays to starting palliative care without an order from the court. 

The family, however, argues that the trust has not given them enough time and refused to compromise with the family, forcing them into court.

Representing the family, Edward Devereux QC submitted a statement to the court, saying that "Interim measures made under the human rights treaties are binding under international law," and that "any failure to abide by the terms of a request for interim measures in accordance with the terms of the Convention and, in particular, Art 4 of the Optional Protocol would be a flagrant, egregious and unacceptable breach of international law."

The parents have argued that stopping their son's treatment is a breach of the U.K.'s obligations under Articles 10 and 12 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, according to CLC. 

Dance submitted an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt. Hon. Stephen Barclay MP, urging him to prevent the removal of her son's life support following CRPD's intervention. 

On Sunday, the Government Legal Department referred the case back to the High Court for "urgent consideration."

The move followed a request last week by the UNCRPD following a refusal from the U.K. Supreme Court to intervene in the case. Lower courts had previously ruled against an appeal to stop the removal of life support.

The UNCRPD said in response to Battersbee's parents that its special rapporteur on communications "requested the State party to refrain from withdrawing life-preserving medical treatment, including mechanical ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration, from the alleged victim while the case is under consideration by the Committee."

"[T]his request does not imply that any decision has been reached on the substance of the matter under consideration," the response states. "The Committee may review the necessity of maintaining the request for interim measures once the State party's observations have been received.'"

Last month, Justice Emma Arbuthnot ruled that the Royal London Hospital could discontinue life support, writing that the boy is likely dead "on the balance of probabilities." Arbuthnot granted the parents permission to appeal.

In a July 15 judgment, Justice Hayden ruled that it is in the child's "best interests" for his life support to be removed. Last week, three judges of the Court of Appeal in Central London denied the parents permission to appeal the second high court judge's decision. 

Dance claimed that a video she shared last week purports to show Battersbee attempting to breathe on his own.

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