LONDON – A British court on Monday refused to block a hospital from ending life-support treatment for a 12-year-old boy who has suffered catastrophic brain damage.
The parents of Archie Battersbee have fought unsuccessfully in the courts to prevent the Royal London Hospital from turning off the boy's ventilator and stopping other interventions that are keeping him alive. That had been due to happen Monday, but after the family appealed to the United Nations, the British government asked the Court of Appeal to take another look at the case.
After an emergency hearing, the court said it would not extend a stay on the withdrawal of life support beyond noon on Tuesday.
“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," judge Andrew McFarlane said.
The judge said the medical evidence showed that Archie’s “system, his organs and, ultimately, his heart are in the process of closing down. The options before the court have always been stark.”
Archie's parents can still ask the U.K. Supreme Court if it will hear the case. If it agrees, the deadline would likely be extended again.
Archie was found unconscious at home with a ligature over his head on April 7. His parents believe he may have been taking part in an online challenge that went wrong. Doctors believe Archie is brain-stem dead and say continued life-support treatment is not in his best interests.
Several British courts have agreed. Monday’s hearing came after the U.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities asked for treatment to be continued so it could examine the case.
Archie’s mother, Hollie Dance, said doctors and judges should not have the final say about Archie’s treatment.
“Archie is my child,” she told the BBC. “It shouldn’t be anybody else’s decision but ours.”
The case is the latest in the U.K. that has pitted the judgment of doctors against the wishes of families. In several cases, including this one, the families have been backed by a religious pressure group, Christian Concern.
Under British law, it is common for courts to intervene when parents and doctors disagree on the treatment of a child. In such cases, the rights of the child take primacy over the parents’ right to decide what’s best for their offspring.
Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said “the plan to withdraw treatment will proceed unless the court directs otherwise.”
“Our deepest sympathies are with Archie’s family at this difficult time,” he said.