Archie Battersbee's life support will be switched off

Archie Battersbee’s life support WILL be switched off: Supreme Court judges deliver crushing final blow to family’s desperate hopes of 11th hour reprieve for ‘brain dead’ 12-year-old boy who has been kept alive by NHS medics for four months

  • Archie, who has been in a coma since April, was expected to be taken off his ventilator at 12pm today
  • Court of Appeal ruled continuing life support was not in the best interests of 12-year-old from Essex
  • Judges rejected a plea from his parents to keep Archie alive until his case could be considered by UN
  • The family were given short delay until today to could consider any other last-minute legal applications 

Archie Battersbee’s life support will now be switched off after his family lost a desperate 11th-hour Supreme Court bid to keep him alive. 

Today’s judgment will be a crushing blow to the 12-year-old’s parents, who have fought a long legal battle to persuade the courts to overrule medics who insist he is ‘brain dead’ and has no chance of recovery. 

Archie, who has been in a coma since April, was expected to be taken off his ventilator at 12pm after the Court of Appeal ruled continuing life support was not in his best interests. 

But just minutes after his life support was meant to be turned off, the Supreme Court confirmed a last-minute appeal had been lodged.

Three judges this afternoon examined the application to allow the United Nations Commission for the Rights of People of Disability to consider their complaint but have now ruled against the request.  

Lord Hodge, the court’s deputy president, sat alongside Lords Kitchin and Stephens – the same panel of Supreme Court justices who rejected an appeal bid by Archie’s parents last week.

Announcing the court’s refusal to hear the appeal, the judges said: ‘As this panel stated in its note of determination last week, the justices have great sympathy with the plight of Archie’s devoted parents who face a circumstance that is every parent’s nightmare – the loss of a much-loved child.

‘It has to be borne in mind that, sadly, the central issue between Archie’s parents on the one hand and the NHS trust, which is supported by Archie’s very experienced guardian, has not been about Archie’s recovery but about the timing and manner of his death.

‘As Sir Andrew MacFarlane recorded in his earlier judgment of July 25, there is no prospect of any meaningful recovery. Even if life-sustaining treatment were to be maintained, Archie would die in the course of the next few weeks through organ failure and then heart failure.

‘The maintenance of the medical regime, as (Mr Justice Hayden) held in his very sympathetic judgment, ”serves only to protract his death”. That conclusion was one which the judge reached only ”with the most profound regret”.’ 

The Supreme Court’s announcement said that while there was evidence Archie had ‘religious beliefs, was very close to his mother and would not have wished to leave her alone’, these were ‘only some of the factors’ the court had to consider.

Earlier today, friend Ella Carter said the family want Archie to be moved to a hospice if his life support is to be cut off. 

‘If this is Archie’s last couple of days it needs to be peaceful and it needs to be a calm atmosphere, and it’s the complete opposite really,’ she said. ‘We would really like it to be in a hospice – I mean that’s exactly what they’re designed for, they’re so well-equipped to deal with situations like this.’   

Archie, of Southend-On-Sea, Essex, suffered brain damage at home on April 7 and is in coma. Medics say he is ‘brain dead’ 

Doctors have been given permission to turn off Archie’s life support machine, but his parents are trying to continue the fight to keep him alive. Pictured is Archie in hospital

Archie was found with a ligature around his neck on April 7 and never regained consciousness. Doctors at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel believe he is ‘brain-stem dead’ but his parents are fighting to keep his mechanical ventilation

The parents of Archie Battersbee, Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance, outside Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel yesterday

The Christian Legal Centre said that it will stand by Archie’s parents (pictured yesterday) as they fight in the Supreme Court

Archie, an aspiring Olympic gymnast, was fit and healthy until April this year, when he was found unconscious at home. 

He suffered catastrophic brain damage and has never regained consciousness. Doctors say his brain stem is dead, meaning he will not recover. 

Is brain stem death the same as being in a vegetative state? And what are the chances of recovery?

Archie’s doctors insist he is ‘brain dead’. This is different to a ‘vegetative state’ which happens after extensive brain damage, like that suffered by F1 racing legend Michael Schumacher in a catastrophic skiing accident in 2013. It is permanent, meaning the affected person will never regain consciousness or start breathing on their own again. They are legally confirmed as dead, with the time on their death certificate logged when they fail a catalogue of tests.

The NHS says it can be ‘confusing’ because brain dead people can still have a beating heart and their chest will ‘rise and fall with every breath’. However, this is solely down to life support machines — not because the person has miraculously regained the ability to do this themselves.

Occasionally, the limbs and torso can move. But this is simply down to reflexes triggered by nerves in the spine that are not linked with the brain. It does not indicate that the brain is still working. Whereas, it is scientifically possible for someone in a vegetative state to recover. This is because their brain stem, which controls breathing and heartbeat, still functions, meaning they may show signs of being awake — such as being able to open their eyes.

One year after going into a vegetative state, around 43 per cent will regain consciousness, 34 per cent die and 23 per cent are still vegetative. However, those who wake up are often minimally conscious, unable to communicate and have to be fed through a tube. Dozens of people claim to have beaten brain death in the past. Zack Dunlap, a 21-year-old from Oklahoma, told of how he heard doctors tell his family he was brain dead following a scan. But his arm moved while he was being prepared for organ donation. He later woke up, recovered and went home seven weeks later.

But the Neurocritical Care Society, a network of more than 2,000 healthcare workers, says it is impossible. Writing in an FAQ page, it said: ‘If anyone claims to have recovered from brain death, then the diagnosis was incorrect.’

The brain stem is located at the bottom of the brain and controls consciousness, awareness, breathing and the ability to regulate heart and blood pressure. If damaged – through trauma in Archie’s case, or through bleeding, infections or tumours – it swells up but has no room to expand because it is encased inside the skull. This causes pressure to build up, leading to a drop in blood flow to the brain and damage to tissue. This pressure and swelling pushes the brain through a small opening at the base of the skull, which can not always be stopped or reversed.

When the brain stem stops working, it cannot send messages to the body to control any functions and cannot receive messages back from the body. This damage is irreversible. Six tests need to be met before a person can be declared as a brain stem death. These include the pupils not responding to light, having no cough or gag reflex and being unresponsive to pain. 

Earlier today, Miss Dance spoke of her determination to continue fighting. ‘I promised Archie I would fight for his life to the end and that’s what I’m doing,’ she told Good Morning Britain. 

Asked what she would do if the appeal to the Supreme Court was unsuccessful, Miss Dance said: ‘We’re in discussions about moving Archie because we don’t want him to spend his last moments in his hospital.’ 

She has previously accused Barts NHS Trust of pursuing a ‘choreographed execution’ of her son. 

Archie was due to have his life-support at the Royal London Hospital in east London ended yesterday at 2pm, after a High Court judge ruled this to be in his best interests and the family exhausted all routes of appeal.

However, the UN committee issued a request to the UK Government last Friday, asking that it ‘refrain from withdrawing life-preserving medical treatment, including mechanical ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration’ from Archie while his case is under consideration by the committee.

The Government’s legal department then wrote an urgent letter on Sunday on behalf of Health Secretary Steve Barclay, asking the courts to urgently consider the committee’s request.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, sitting with Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Moylan, said yesterday: ‘My decision is that, save for granting a short stay until 12 noon tomorrow, the parents’ application for any further stay is dismissed.’

The judge said the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, under which the UN committee made its request, is an ‘unincorporated international treaty’.

He said: ‘It is not part of the law of the United Kingdom … and it is not appropriate for this court to apply an unincorporated international treaty into its decision-making process.’

He added: ‘Every day that (Archie) continues to be given life-sustaining treatment is contrary to his best interests and, so, a stay, even for a short time, is against his best interests.’

The judge said that was the decision that has been taken in the courts of England and Wales.

The judges refused to grant permission to appeal against their ruling at the Supreme Court.

Miss Dance indicated she and Mr Battersbee will make an application to the UK’s highest court.

She said: ‘We continue to be shocked and traumatised by the brutality of the UK courts and the hospital trust.

‘Our wishes as parents continue to be trampled on and ignored. We do not understand the urgency and rush to end life-support.

‘The hospital trust has at no point given us time to come to terms with what has happened.

‘This is no way for a compassionate society to treat a family in our situation. We will continue to fight for Archie.’

The appeal was submitted just after midday today. 

The Supreme Court said: ‘The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has today, 2nd August 2022, received a Permission to Appeal (PTA) application in the case of Archie Battersbee.

‘Archie Battersbee is a 12 year old boy who has been in a deep coma since 7 April 2022. His parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, wish to challenge the decision to withdraw life–sustaining treatment.

‘They are seeking a stay of the Court of Appeal’s decision to allow withdrawal of life–support treatment from their child.

‘The proposed stay is to allow more time for the United Nations Commission for the Rights of People of Disability consider their complaint that that withdrawal of life–sustaining treatment is a breach of the Convention.

‘The Supreme Court is aware of the urgency of this matter.

‘A panel of three Justices will consider the application for permission to appeal ‘on paper’, in the usual way.’

Friends of Archie Battersbee’s family (left to right) Jeanette Baldwin, Ella Carter and Kelly Elliott. Ms Carter said today of the Supreme Court justices: ‘We’re hoping that they will accept our appeal and that they will hear our case – it’s been really frustrating’

A letter from the NHS Trust to Archie’s parents, which was shared with MailOnline with their permission

In a letter, Archie’s parents Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee plead with Health Secretary Steve Barclay to intervene

Archie has not regained consciousness after he was found unresponsive with a ligature around his neck at his home

Archie with his mother Hollie Dance (left), brother Tom Summers and sister Lauren Summers

Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts Health NHS Trust, said: ‘Our heartfelt sympathies and condolences remain with Archie’s family at this difficult time.

‘We are following the direction of the courts, so no changes will be made to Archie’s care whilst the family appeal to the Supreme Court, though we will prepare to withdraw treatment after mid-day tomorrow unless directed otherwise.’ 

‘We have to manage our instinct and what is right for the person’: Kate Garraway discusses husband Derek Draper’s life-threatening hospital visit during emotional interview with Archie Battersbee’s mother Hollie

By Rebecca Lawrence and Rebecca Davison for MailOnline  

Good Morning Britain host Kate Garraway interviewed Archie Battersbee’s mother Hollie on the show on Tuesday morning. 

And during the emotional conversation, Kate, 55, spoke about fighting to keep her husband Derek Draper alive amid his recovery from Covid in 2020. He returned to hospital last month after contracting ‘life-threatening’ sepsis.

Archie, 12, has been in a coma since April after an online ‘blackout’ challenge is believed to have gone wrong.

He is expected to be taken off his ventilator at 12pm after the Court of Appeal ruled continuing life support was not in his best interests but his parents have been fighting to give him more time and are convinced he is showing signs of recovery, however small. 

Hollie and Archie’s father, Paul Battersbee, will now ask Supreme Court justices to consider their application for permission to appeal directly – despite that same court previously refusing them permission to appeal. 

‘We have to manage our instinct and what is right for the person’: Kate Garraway discussed husband Derek Draper’s life-threatening hospital visit during an emotional interview with Archie Battersbee’s mother Hollie Dance on Tuesday 

Kate said: ‘I’ve got a couple of things to ask you that are a little bit based from my own experience, which I want to stress, particularly for Derek’s family who might be watching, is very different from yours.

‘Mercifully I’ve not had to have the conversations with doctors about discussions of turning off the life support machines, and Derek’s brain stem has never been affected in the way that poor Archie’s had

‘But I have had to have conversations in my own head with myself sometimes when Derek was in a coma and in a state of minimum consciousness, about how much my frenzy to fight for him and to check every possible option was about me and my needs and how much was about him.

‘And I understand your fight but I guess what the courts are there for is to try and manage our instinct and what is right for the person. Have you thought about that?’

Hollie said: ‘Yes of course I have. And if Archie was in pain and deteriorating in the way it has been put over to the courts then I would be feeling very different but that isn’t the case. And based on that not being the case I find it very hard not to exhaust every option.’

She explained: ‘Archie is showing very different signs. He’s progressing in so many ways.

‘He regulates his own body temperature, he has a stable heart beat, he holds his own blood pressure, he’s gaining weight, all different things that haven’t been put over.

‘Archie has held my hand, he’s held other people’s hands, squeezed fingers, he squeezed them so tight my fingers were red.

‘He’s opened his eyes, he’s attempted to breathe, all we’re asking for is time.’

Terrifying: Meanwhile, Kate revealed Derek, 54, had developed a kidney infection that caused dangerous complications (pictured in 2020) 

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