Life support for brain-damaged boy, 12, should end as High Court rules he is dead

UK

Life support treatment for a 12-year-old boy with brain damage should be stopped as he is clinically dead, the High Court has ruled.

Archie Battersbee has been at the centre of a legal dispute after he was seriously injured in an incident at his home in Southend, Essex, in April.

Doctors treating the child at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, argued that life support treatment should end and the youngster should be disconnected from a ventilator.

But his parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, wanted the treatment to continue, saying the youngster’s heart is still beating and he had gripped his mother’s hand.

Lawyers representing the Royal London Hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, asked Mrs Justice Arbuthnot to decide what moves were in Archie’s best interests.

Undated family handout photo of Archie Battersbee, 12, who's mother Hollie Dance, 46, is at the centre of a High Court life-treatment dispute has urged a judge to give the youngster "more time
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Archie Battersbee, 12, is at the centre of a High Court life-treatment dispute

In a written ruling, the judge said: “I find that Archie died at noon on 31 May 2022, which was shortly after the MRI scans taken that day.

“I find that irreversible cessation of brain stem function has been conclusively established.

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“I give permission to the medical professionals at the Royal London Hospital to cease to ventilate mechanically Archie Battersbee.”

Speaking outside court, Archie’s mother Ms Dance said she was “devastated and extremely disappointed” by the judge’s ruling.

Undated family handout photo of Archie Battersbee with his mother Hollie Dance. A US-based doctor has told a judge asked to make decisions about the future of a boy at the centre of a life-support treatment dispute that he knows of cases where people diagnosed as being dead by "neurological criteria" have been proved to be alive. Issue date: Wednesday June 8, 2022.
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Undated family handout photo of Archie Battersbee with his mother Hollie Dance

She told reporters: “After weeks of fighting a legal battle, when I wanted to be by my little boy’s bedside, basing the judgment on an MRI test – and that he is likely to be dead – is not good enough.

“This is believed to be the first time that someone has been declared ‘likely to be dead’ by an MRI test.”

She said she feels “sickened at the hospital” and the judge “failed”, adding that her son had not been given enough time.

“His heart is still beating,” she said. “Until it’s God’s way I won’t accept that he should go”.

Ms Dance said the family intends on appealing the judge’s ruling.

“This is only the start. I will not give up the fight for my son.”

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Mum ‘sickened’ by brain death ruling

The Royal London Hospital’s Group Chief Medical Officer Alistair Chesser said that Archie will be provided with the “best possible care” as his life support is withdrawn.

“We are also ensuring there is time for the family whether they wish to appeal before any changes to care are made,” he said in a statement outside court.

The judge had recently finished overseeing a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

She heard that Archie suffered brain damage after his mother found him unconscious with a ligature over his head on 7 April and thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge.

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Archie Battersbee ‘grips’ hand in hospital

The boy has not regained consciousness.

Last week, a medical expert told the High Court that tests done on Archie had shown no “discernible” brain activity and revealed “significant areas of tissue necrosis”.

“We believe that it is very likely that he is brain-stem dead,” she said.

Another expert at an earlier hearing explained the brain stem was responsible for the functions that kept people alive.

He said Archie’s prognosis was “very grave” and told the judge that his chances of recovery were “very low”.

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