Archie Battersbee: Family refused permission for hospice move

Archie BattersbeeHollie Dance

The family of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee cannot move him to a hospice for withdrawal of treatment, a High Court judge has ruled.

His family applied for permission after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused a request to delay the withdrawal of life-sustaining support.

Archie’s mother wanted him “in a peaceful hospice to say goodbye”.

But doctors warned he was too unstable to move by ambulance and it would “hasten premature deterioration”.

The family sought permission to appeal against the latest decision, but that bid has been rejected by three justices at the Court of Appeal.

They have now applied to the European Court of Human Rights challenging the High Court ruling, campaign group Christian Concern said.

Responding to the hospice ruling, Archie’s mum, Hollie Dance, said: “All our wishes as a family have been denied by the authorities.

“We are broken, but we are keeping going, because we love Archie and refuse to give up on him.”

Hollie dance with her son Archie

Hollie Dance

Archie, who is being treated at the Royal London Hospital, was found unconscious at home in Southend, Essex, on 7 April – his mother believes he may have been taking part in an online challenge.

He suffered “catastrophic” brain injuries and doctors think it is “highly likely” he is brain-stem dead.

Life-sustaining support, including mechanical ventilation and drug treatments, has been in place since April.

‘Peacefully and privately’

In her ruling earlier, Mrs Justice Theis concluded it was not in Archie’s best interests to be moved.

She said: “Archie’s best interests must remain at the core of any conclusions reached by this court.

“When considering the wishes of the family, why those wishes are held, the facilities at the hospice, what Archie is likely to have wanted… the risks involved in a transfer… and the increasing fragility of his medical condition, I am satisfied that… he should remain at the hospital when treatment is withdrawn.”

Mrs Justice Theis also noted Archie’s family’s “unconditional love and dedication”, which she said has been a “golden thread that runs through this case”.

“I hope now Archie can be afforded the opportunity for him to die in peaceful circumstances, with the family who meant so much to him as he clearly does to them.”

On Friday evening, the Court of Appeal judges said the judgment from the High Court “deals comprehensively with each of the points raised on behalf of the parents”.

“We have reached the clear conclusion that each of her decisions was right for the reasons [Mrs Justice Theis] gave,” they said.

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Analysis box by Dominic Casciani, home and legal correspondent

This attempt to move Archie to a hospice was always up against large evidential and legal obstacles. Firstly, the law requires the judge to put Archie’s best interests first. So any change to his care would have to be for truly exceptional and necessary reasons.

All preceding courts have ruled it is futile to keep Archie alive. Unnecessarily delaying the withdrawal of treatment would, in the eyes of the law, risk the court becoming complicit in denying the boy peace and dignity in his final hours.

The evidence presented by the family did not change that. There was a moving account of why a hospice would be a good environment for them – but there were also clear accounts that it would not be good for Archie. He could die in an ambulance without his family around him.

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A doctor treating Archie gave evidence that his best interests would be paramount and that the hospital would “enable him peacefully and privately to die in the embrace of the family he loved.”

Archie’s family had said that circumstances at the Royal London and a breakdown in trust meant Archie would not die with peace and dignity in the hospital.

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.

Hollie Dance, Archie’s mother, outside the High Court

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.

Archie’s mother and father, Paul Battersbee, outside the Royal London Hospital

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.

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