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UN temporarily blocks removal of Archie Battersbee's life support

Archie Battersbee
Archie Battersbee |

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities has asked the United Kingdom to keep 12-year-old Archie Battersbee on life support while it considers the boy's case.

The CRPD issued an injunction Friday following a refusal Thursday by the U.K. Supreme Court to intervene in the case. Lower courts ruled against a request from the boy's parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, to prevent Royal London Hospital from discontinuing life support. 

Battersbee was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck in April, suffering a "catastrophic hypoxic ischaemic brain injury." Judges have agreed with the hospital's assessment that the child is likely brain dead. 

The parents are supported in their legal fight by the Christian Legal Centre.

The legal center said in a statement Friday that the court order allowing the removal of Battersbee's life support went into effect Thursday afternoon. 

The family applied to the UN CRPD 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 UN CRPD 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.'" 

Dance is grateful for the U.N's quick response.

"This is the first time this has ever happened in history of this inhumane system in the U.K.," she said. "There have been so many ups and downs, but we have put on the full armour of God, gone into the battle and now we have given Archie time, that is all we have ever asked for."

Last month, Justice Emma Arbuthnot ruled that the Royal London Hospital could discontinue Archie'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. 

"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 stated in his ruling. "It serves only to protract his death, whilst being unable to prolong his life."

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."

On Monday, three judges of the Court of Appeal in central London denied the parents permission to appeal the second high court judge's decision to end his life support treatment.

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