The New Journos

Archie Battersbee case: Parents fighting to keep boy on life support go to European Court of Human Rights

Britain Life Support Battle
Undated family handout photo of Archie Battersbee, whose parents have submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights in a bid to postpone the withdrawal of his life support.

Hollie Dance / AP

The family of a comatose British boy at the center of a life-support battle said Wednesday that it has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in a last-ditch bid to stop a hospital from ending his treatment.

Archie Battersbee, 12, was found unconscious at home with a ligature over his head on April 7. His parents believe he may have been taking part in an online challenge that went wrong.

Doctors treating him have said they believe it is “highly likely” he is brain-stem dead and argued it is in his best interest for life-support to end, BBC News reported.

His parents, Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance, have fought unsuccessfully to get British courts to block the Royal London Hospital turning off the boy’s ventilator and stopping other interventions that are keeping him alive.

Dance said the family’s lawyers submitted an application to the Strasbourg, France-based European human rights court hours before the hospital planned to begin withdrawing Archie’s life support on Wednesday morning.

She said the family was awaiting a response from the court.

“We now hope and pray that the ECHR will look favorably on the application,” she said. “We will not give up on Archie until the end.”

She also said the family was considering offers from Japan and Italy to treat Archie.

“There’s other countries that want to treat him and I think that he should be allowed to go,” Dance said.

Speaking outside the hospital, Dance said the family was “up against the whole system.”

“I promised Arch, same with his dad, that we will fight till the bitter end, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” she said. “We’re going to fight for the right for my son to live.”

A previous High Court ruling heard Archie’s “every bodily function is now maintained by artificial means”, while another heard the boy had not “regained awareness at any time,” BBC News reported.

Archie Battersbee court case
The parents of Archie Battersbee, Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance, leave the Royal Courts Of Justice in London on July 22, 2022.

Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

The case is the latest in the U.K. that has pitted the judgment of doctors against the wishes of families. In several cases, including this one, the families have been backed by a religious pressure group, Christian Concern.

Under British law, it is common for courts to intervene when parents and doctors disagree on the treatment of a child. In such cases, the rights of the child take primacy over the parents’ right to decide what’s best for their offspring.

The U.K. Supreme Court said Tuesday that Archie had “no prospect of any meaningful recovery,” and even with continued treatment would die in the next few weeks from organ and heart failure. The judges agreed with a lower court that continuing treatment “serves only to protract his death.”

Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital treating Archie, said life-support treatment would continue for now.

“As directed by the courts, we will work with the family to prepare for the withdrawal of treatment, but we will make no changes to Archie’s care until the outstanding legal issues are resolved,” he said.

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