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Hospital trust sets deadline for removing Archie Battersbee's life support

Hospital
The Royal London Hospital |

UPDATE: 8 a.m. ET Aug. 3: Archie Battersbee's parents submitted an 11th-hour application to the European Court of Human Rights just before the 9 a.m. Wednesday deadline set by the lawyers for Barts Health NHS Trust to remove their son's life support. 

Original:

Lawyers for Barts Health NHS Trust, responsible for 12-year-old Archie Battersbee's care at the Royal London Hospital, informed the boy's parents that his life support would be withdrawn as early as Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, the U.K. Supreme Court refused permission for Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, Archie's parents, to appeal to prevent their son's life support from being withdrawn, according to a Tuesday statement from The Christian Legal Centre. 

Archie Battersbee
Archie Battersbee |

"Heartbreakingly, the hospital Trust have told us this evening that we cannot move Archie to a hospice," Dance said in a statement. "We want to make an urgent application to the European Court of Human Rights, but the Trust are saying that that has to be submitted at 9 a.m., which gives us and our lawyers no time to prepare it."

"They also demand to see a copy of it, which they have no right to see. However, if this does not happen, they say they will withdraw treatment tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. This is cruel and we are absolutely appalled."

The CLC has been representing the parents in their ongoing legal battle to prevent the removal of Battersbee's life support. In April, the child was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck, suffering a "catastrophic hypoxic ischaemic brain injury." He has not regained consciousness. Doctors and judges have agreed that the boy is brain dead.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Rt. Hon Steve Barclay, called for the U.K. Supreme Court to refuse the parents' urgent appeal on Tuesday. 

Government lawyers submitted to the U.K. Supreme Court on his behalf that the interim measures injunction by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) are "not binding" under international law. 

The UNCRPD had asked the United Kingdom last week to keep the boy on life support while it considered the case.

Government lawyers wrote that "the notion that interim measures are binding has not been accepted as a facet of customary international law. There is no such consensus. On the contrary, the status of the committees' decisions is a subject of some controversy." 

The parents attempted to file a last-minute application with the U.K. Supreme Court Tuesday morning following a Court of Appeal hearing Monday. Representatives of Barts Health NHS Trust stated during the hearing that the institution would withdraw treatment on Tuesday afternoon if an application to the U.K. Supreme Court was not made. 

Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the Court of Appeal family division, granted Battersbee's parents a brief stay on Monday so they could appeal to the Supreme Court, according to CLC. McFarlane rejected the UNCRPD injunction and said Battersbee shouldn't remain on life support and that ending treatment is in the boy's "best interests." 

The family applied to the UNCRPD because individuals and families can file complaints regarding potential violations of disabled people's rights. Battersbee's parents argue that stopping their son's treatment breaches the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Children. 

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 Battersbee's life support, writing that the boy is likely dead "on the balance of probabilities." Despite her decision, Arbuthnot granted the parents permission to appeal. 

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

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