Archie Battersbee: Family apply to European court in battle to move boy to hospice

·4 min read

The family of Archie Battersbee are going to the European Court of Human Rights to try to have him moved to a hospice to die after they lost their latest legal effort in the UK courts.

His family have been told his life-sustaining treatment will be withdrawn from 10am on Saturday, according to campaign group Christian Concern, which is supporting them.

But health chiefs say no changes will be made to Archie’s care until the outstanding legal issues are resolved.

Archie’s parents are challenging a High Court decision made on Friday morning that concluded it was not in the 12-year-old’s best interests that he is moved before his life-sustaining treatment is withdrawn.

His parents then applied to the Court of Appeal over that High Court decision – but on Friday evening judges denied them permission to appeal.

Archie has been in a coma since he was found unconscious by his mother at their home in Southend, Essex, in April and is being kept alive by a combination of medical interventions, including ventilation and drug treatments, at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.

His mother, Hollie Dance, believes he was taking part in an online challenge that left him catastrophically ill.

On Wednesday the couple’s lengthy legal battles to prolong his life support ended when the European Court of Human Rights refused to intervene to halt the withdrawal of treatment.

The family’s focus then shifted to trying to get their son moved to a hospice, but Mrs Justice Theis at the High Court concluded on Friday that it was not in Archie’s best interests to be moved.

Doctors said Archie was in such a grave condition that moving him to a hospice carried a “significant risk” he could die during the journey, the High Court was told.

Ruling on Friday that he should remain in hospital while his life-sustaining treatment is withdrawn, Ms Justice Theis said due to the risks involved in a transfer and “the increasing fragility of his medical condition”, Archie should remain in hospital when his treatment is withdrawn.

“The circumstances outlined by Dr F of the physical arrangements at the hospital and the arrangements that can be made 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,” Ms Theis said.

Doctors treating the schoolboy for the past four months declared Archie to be “brain-stem dead”, but his family kept his life support going in the hope he might recover.

But the judges considering the application concluded that Judge Theis’s decisions were right.

“It follows that the proposed appeal has no prospect of success and there is no other compelling reason for the Court of Appeal to hear an appeal,” they said.

The appeal judges also said one of the arguments presented by Archie’s parents was flawed legally, adding: “It is also not easy to understand as it seeks to argue that Archie’s best interests have ceased to be relevant.”

After the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused the application to delay any changes to his treatment, Ms Dance said she wanted her son to “spend his last moments” together with his family privately.

She told Times Radio they would not have privacy at the hospital, adding: “We can't even have the chance to be in a room together as a family without nurses.”

Archie Battersbee’s parents have fought a long-running legal battle over the withdrawal of his treatment (Hollie Dance/PA) (PA Media)
Archie Battersbee’s parents have fought a long-running legal battle over the withdrawal of his treatment (Hollie Dance/PA) (PA Media)

She said: “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?”

Barts Health NHS Trust said Archie’s condition was too unstable for a transfer and that moving him by ambulance to a different setting “would most likely hasten the premature deterioration the family wish to avoid, even with full intensive care equipment and staff on the journey”.

A High Court order made last month requires that Archie remain at the Royal London Hospital while his treatment is withdrawn.

A family spokesperson said a hospice had agreed to take him, adding: “Hospices are well and truly designed for palliative and respite care.

“Archie is now obviously on palliative care so there is no reason whatsoever for him not to take his last moments at a hospice.”