Archie Battersbee cannot be moved to hospice to die, High Court rules

UK

Archie Battersbee cannot be moved from hospital to a hospice, the High Court has ruled, denying an application from his family.

His mother, Hollie Dance, said she wanted her brain-damaged son to “spend his last moments” together with family privately, but the High Court ruled this was not in Archie’s best interests.

The judge has also refused permission to appeal against her ruling after lawyers for the family requested it.

The family may now pursue a challenge directly with the Court of Appeal, and Mrs Justice Theis granted a stay on the withdrawal of treatment until 2pm on Friday to allow time for an appeal to be lodged.

The family’s lawyers had appealed for the move in a long High Court hearing on Thursday that ran late into the night, the culmination of several legal challenges which had aimed to ensure the boy’s life-sustaining treatment continues.

But medical experts called the risks involved in the transfer “major and unpredictable”, which the judge agreed with.

However, although Archie’s parents recognised the risks in relation to the transfer to the hospice – including Archie potentially dying in transit – they said they were prepared to take them in preference to remaining in the hospital.

More on Archie Battersbee

Archie was described as being in a “difficult and increasingly compromised position”.

“Archie’s best interests must remain at the core of any conclusions reached by this court,” said Justice Theis as she concluded he should remain at the hospital while his treatment is withdrawn.

The opportunity for Archie to die ‘peacefully and privately’

The hospital has agreed a number of arrangements can be made for the family that will “ensure that Archie’s best interest will remain the focus of the final arrangements to enable him peacefully and privately to die in the embrace of the family he loved.”

Archie Battersbee. Pic: Hollie Dance
Image:
Archie Battersbee. Pic: Hollie Dance

Justice Theis concluded: “I return to where I started, recognising the enormity of what lays ahead for Archie’s parents and the family. Their unconditional love and dedication to Archie is 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.”

Archie, 12, has been in a coma since being found unconscious by his mother at their home in Southend, Essex, in April.

Doctors treating him at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, believe the youngster is brain-stem dead and say continued life support is not in his best interest.

Archie Battersbee. Pic: Hollie Dance
Image:
Archie Battersbee. Pic: Hollie Dance

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has said that Archie’s condition is too unstable for him to be transferred.

They argued that moving him to a hospice via ambulance “would most likely hasten the premature deterioration the family wish to avoid, even with full intensive care equipment and staff on the journey”.

‘Inhumane’ and a lack of privacy, say family

Ms Dance said before the hearing: “If they refuse permission for us to take him to a hospice and for him to receive palliative oxygen it will simply be inhumane and nothing about Archie’s ‘dignity’.”

She had complained to Times Radio that the family is unable to be in a room together without nurses.

“There’s absolutely no privacy, which is why, again, the courts keep going on about this dignified death – why aren’t we allowed to take our child to a hospice and spend his last moments, his last days together privately?

“Why is the hospital obstructing it?”

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‘I promised Archie I’d fight’

A High Court order made in July requires that Archie remains at the Royal London Hospital while his treatment is withdrawn.

A family spokesperson said a hospice has agreed to take him.

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