Archie Battersbee: How did life support battle end up in court?

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Image source, Hollie Dance
Image caption,
Archie Battersbee suffered brain damage in an incident at home on 7 April and never regained consciousness

Archie Battersbee, 12, suffered traumatic brain injuries after an incident at home in April and doctors and his family battled in court over his continuing life-support treatment. He died on 6 August.

This is how the story unfolded.

Who was Archie Battersbee?

Image source, Hollie Dance
Image caption,
Before his accident Archie was a keen boxer and gymnast

Archie was described as a "born fighter" by his mum Hollie Dance.

Before his accident, he was an active young boy who took part in mixed martial arts and gymnastics, his family said.

That interest in mixed martial arts also spurred an interest in Christianity two years ago, after he saw other fighters praying before fights, they added.

On 7 April, his mother found him unconscious after an incident at their home in Southend, Essex. She believed he had been taking part in an online challenge.

Why was his case heard at court?

Media caption,

Hollie Dance said her "gut instinct" was that her son was "still in there"

After being transferred to the Royal London Hospital in east London, run by Barts Health NHS Trust, doctors told Archie's family they believed his brain damage was so significant that he may be brain stem dead.

Doctors asked to conduct a brain stem death test, but Archie's family denied consent, leading the trust to bring a case at the High Court in London for permission for the test to be carried out.

In subsequent hearings, lawyers representing the trust had asked the judge to decide what moves were in Archie's best interests.

The brain stem test was unable to be conducted and since further hearings have taken place to determine whether life-sustaining treatment should continue.

At the end of a hearing on 13 June, the judge ruled that Archie had died on the day of his MRI scan on 31 May and his life support treatment could stop.

Archie's parents won an appeal for the case to be reconsidered on 29 June, and a new hearing, presided over by a different judge, to determine what was in Archie's best interests, took place on 11 July.

An application to the Court of Appeal to overturn the ruling was rejected and the Supreme Court also refused to intervene.

Archie's family made an application to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, which then asked the UK government to delay the withdrawal of treatment while itconsideredthe case.

His familysaid the committee has a protocol that allows individuals and families to "make complaints about violations of disabled people's rights".

Health Secretary Steven Barclay asked the courts for an urgent hearing to review the case but three Court of Appeal Justices found the convention relied upon by the committee did not form part of UK law and so upheld the original decision that life-sustaining treatment should stop.

A further application to appeal that decision was made to the Supreme Court but was rejected.

Archie's family also sought permission from the High Court to allow them to move Archie to a hospice but a judge ruled it was not in Archie's best interests to be moved.

What else did Archie's family say?

Archie's parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, argued that their son needed more time to heal.

They had also argued that their and Archie's religious beliefs should be given more consideration by medics and the court.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre campaigning organisation, the family said they had seen signs of life from Archie and that doctors had not listened to their concerns.

Ms Dancehad said she believed her son needed "more time" to recover.

Speaking after the second High Court ruling was given, Ms Dance called it a "crushing blow".

"We disagree with the idea of dignity in death. Enforcing it on us and hastening his death for that purpose is profoundly cruel," she said.

"It is for God to decide what should happen to Archie, including if, when and how he should die.

"As long as Archie is fighting for his life, I cannot betray him."

She had saidshe was "living every parent's worst nightmare" and vowed not to give up.

What did the doctors say?

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer at Barts Health NHS Trust, had said the hospital's "thoughts and sympathies" were with the family

Doctors treating Archie had told the High Court that it was "highly likely" he was "brain stem dead" following scan results and had asked the court to consider ordering that his life support should be stopped.

During one hearing, specialists said tests had shown no "discernible" brain activity and that parts of his brain were showing "significant areas of tissue necrosis".

A previous High Court ruling heard that Archie's "every bodily function" was maintained by artificial means.

At a Court of Appeal hearing on 1 August Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the High Court Family Division, summarised Archie's condition based on the medical evidence.

He said: "In short his system, his organs and, ultimately, his heart are in the process of closing down."

It was lawyers representing the trust who originally asked the High Court to decide what next step was in Archie's best interests.

Following the latest appeal loss by the family, Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer at Barts Health NHS Trust, had said: "Our deepest sympathies remain with Archie's family.

"As directed by the courts, we will now work with the family to prepare for the withdrawal of treatment."

Timeline: How the story unfolded

Archie is found unconscious by his mother after an incident at their home in Essex. He is taken to Southend Hospital.

Archie is transferred to The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel where he has been treated ever since.

The NHS trust that runs the Royal London starts High Court proceedings by asking for Archie to undergo brain stem testing.

Mrs Justice Arbuthnot rules that brain stem testing should be carried out.

Two specialists try to administer brain stem function tests, but they are unable to as Archie did not respond to a peripheral nerve stimulation test, a precursor to the brain stem test.

A hearing is held to decide if further MRI scans should be conducted. Archie's parents did not consent on the basis that moving Archie could harm him.

The court approves further MRI scans, which are carried out on 31 May.

A final hearing is held to hear evidence on whether Archie's life-support treatment should continue.

The High Court judge rules that Archie is "dead" based on MRI scan results and that treatment could be withdrawn.

Image caption Hollie Dance, Archie’s mother, outside the High Court Image copyright by PA

The family ask the Court of Appeal to reconsider the case.

The Court of Appeal says that a new hearing to determine Archie's best interests should take place.

A new hearing is held in the High Court with evidence given before Mr Justice Hayden.

Mr Justice Hayden rules that life-support treatment should end, saying continuing it is "futile".

Three Court of Appeal judges support the High Court ruling that treatment can end.

The Supreme Court rules out intervening in the case and supports the Court of Appeal ruling.

The family make an application to the United Nations.

Image caption Archie’s mother and father, Paul Battersbee, outside the Royal London Hospital Image copyright by PA

A UN Committee writes to the UK government asking for a delay in withdrawing treatment while they consider the case.

The government asks for an urgent hearing to review the case.

The Court of Appeal refuses to postpone withdrawal of treatment until the UN can hear the case.

The Supreme Court refuse the family's application for permission to appeal the Court of Appeal ruling.

European Court of Human Rights refuses an application from the family to postpone the withdrawal of Archie’s life support.

Archie's parents make a legal application to move their son to a hospice for end of life care.

A High Court judge rules that Archie cannot be moved to a hospice for withdrawal of treatment.

Archie passes away at the Royal London Hospital after treatment is withdrawn in line with court rulings about his best interests. Members of his family are at his bedside.

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