Critically ill 12-year-old Archie Battersbee dies after life support removed

LONDON — Archie Battersbee, a 12-year-old British boy whose life support system was removed after a legal battle between his parents and doctors, died on Saturday, ending another heartbreaking case about who makes life or health decisions. dead for a seriously sick child.

Archie had been in a deep coma since his mother found him unconscious at their home in Essex, southeast England, on April 7 with something tied around his neck. His mother, Hollie Dance, said he could have participated in an online challenge.

“Can I just say I’m the proudest mum in the world – such a beautiful little boy, and he fought until the very end,” Ms Dance said, speaking to reporters at the outside the Royal London Hospital, where Archie was being treated. . “And I’m so proud to be his mother.”

In a series of rulings, judges concluded that Archie had suffered severe brain damage and that the burden of treating his condition “as well as the complete lack of prospect of recovery” outweighed the benefits of continuing to treat him. keep alive on a ventilator.

Archie’s family have appealed the decisions, saying they want him to die at a “godly chosen” time. They argued that because of his Christian beliefs and the thoughts he had expressed in the past, Archie’s intention would have been to continue living.

On Wednesday evening, after unsuccessful appeals in three different courts in a week, the family requested that Archie be transferred to hospice. Doctors at the hospital refused because of the risks involved in moving him, saying they would most likely cause “premature deterioration”, and the family’s legal efforts to overturn the decision were also rejected.

Ms Dance had called the doctors’ decision to schedule a time when life support would be removed a ‘choreographed execution of my son’. She asked why parents “have their decisions and rights taken away from them.”

In Britain, when parents and doctors disagree about what is in a child’s best interests, a court is called upon to decide. In recent years, similar high-profile cases have emerged, such as those of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans. Pope Francis has weighed in on both cases, and Donald J. Trump, when he was president, offered US help for 11-month-old Charlie.

Experts said these painful dilemmas reflected a shift from when doctors made the final call, with decisions seen not just as medical but also ethical. If parents disagree with doctors, almost impossible questions arise, such as what kind of life is worth living and how serious a child’s condition was before he or she died. be judged that there is no chance of recovery.

In Archie’s case, the doctors said they believed his brainstem was dead. Due to the lack of response, however, doctors were unable to perform full brainstem tests, so he had not been legally declared brain dead.

At the hearings, the judges sided with the medical evidence supporting the conclusion that Archie had no prospect of recovery. They ruled that the medical support “serves only to prolong his death, while being incapable of prolonging his life”, according to court documents.

Ms Dance said Archie’s condition was better than described in court by doctors. She said he showed signs of improvement, adding that he even shook her hand.

Archie’s father, Paul Battersbee, has kept a lower profile during the legal battles, but has been supportive of efforts to continue life support.

Dominic Wilkinson, professor of medical ethics at Oxford University, said the problem boiled down to one fundamental question.

“It’s about knowing what medicine is for“, he said. It is to make us better, to make us able to live and enjoy our lives. But sometimes all medicine can do is prolong the death phase. And sometimes medicine, frankly, does more harm than good.

But, he added, on this topic, doctors and families sometimes disagreed.

“Families can sometimes want to prolong life at all costs,” he said, “while medical professionals recognize that medicine has reached its natural limits.”

The leader of a Christian group supporting the family’s case said such decisions would need to be recalibrated.

“The events of the past few weeks raise many important questions, including questions about the definition of death, how these decisions are made and the place of family,” said Andrea Williams, group chief executive, the Christian Legal Center. in a report. “Nobody wants to see other families go through what they went through. We need an urgent review and reform of the system.

Last week, after the UK Supreme Court refused to intervene to postpone the withdrawal of the life support system, Ms Dance filed an application with the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an arm of the rights agency of the man of the organization.

The agency said it had asked the UK government to refrain from withdrawing the treatment while the case was under investigation.

“All we’ve ever asked for is more time,” Ms Dance said in a statement at the time. “The urgency of the hospital and the courts is unexplained.”

“I don’t believe there was anything ‘worthy’ about the planning of Archie’s death,” she added. “Parents need support, not pressure.”

But on Monday, the court declined to extend a break past noon on Tuesday, arguing that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, under which the UN committee had requested, was an “unincorporated international treaty and that the decision to withdraw life support could stand.

The family asked on Tuesday to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but the request was denied. The next morning, they filed a petition with the European Court of Human Rights, which declined to intervene.

On Saturday, just over two hours after his life support was removed, Archie died

“There is absolutely nothing dignified about watching a family member or a child suffocate,” said Ella Carter, a friend of the family. “No family should ever have to go through what we’ve been through,” she said before bursting into tears and burying her head in Archie’s mother’s shoulder.

Euan district contributed report.


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