Press Release

Archie Battersbee: Judge forces removal of life support against parent wishes

15 July 2022         Issued by: Christian Concern

A High Court judge has today ruled that a London hospital can remove the life support of 12-year-old, Archie Battersbee, against his parents’ wishes.

Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance, 46, and father, Paul Battersbee, from Southend-On-Sea, have been fighting a legal battle since their son was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck in what is believed to be a tragic accident in April.

Handing down the judgment today (15 July), Mr Justice Hayden ruled that it is in Archie’s ‘best interests’ for life-support to be removed.

He said: “Treatment is futile, it compromises Archie’s dignity…and serves only to protract his death rather than prolong his life.”

Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance, 46, and father, Paul Battersbee, from Southend-On-Sea, have been fighting a legal battle since their son was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck in what is believed to be a tragic accident in April.

Archie’s family will now seek permission to appeal.

Following the ruling, Archie’s mother Hollie Dance said in a statement:

“This ruling is a crushing blow to Archie and his family. With all due respect to Mr Justice Hayden, it is not in Archie’s best interests to die.

“Planned death” is another name for euthanasia, which is illegal in this country.

“The ‘planned’ removal of the ventilator is definitely the worst thing that may happen from my point of view. I cannot see how this is in any way dignified.

“We disagree with the idea of dignity in death. Enforcing it on us and hastening his death for that purpose is profoundly cruel.

“It is for God to decide what should happen to Archie, including if, when and how he should die.

“As long as Archie is fighting for his life, I cannot betray him. Until Archie gives up, I won’t give up.

“I am living every parent’s worst nightmare. There must be change in the NHS and in the court system before another family has to go through what we have.  

“We will be appealing this ruling and we ask for your prayers and support.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “This is another devastating blow for the family and for Archie. Sadly, however, this is what we have come to expect from the courts in end-of-life cases.  

“What Archie’s case has shown is that systematic reform is needed to protect the vulnerable and their families in end-of-life matters. Parents of vulnerable and critically ill children are being put through the mill at the most traumatic moments in their lives when what they need is compassion, support and respect from the NHS and the legal system.

“Behind the back of Parliament and the public, Courts seem to have developed a concept of ‘dying with dignity’ which amounts to euthanasia in all but name.

“These sensitive ethical issues should be debated and determined in the democratic Parliament, not by judicial activists.

“Life is the most precious gift that we have.

“Anyone following this story over the past few months will have seen what it takes to challenge the will of hospital bosses once they have decided life support should be removed.

“This family have fought courageously to get to this point in taking a stand for Archie’s life. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with them as they appeal this ruling.”

‘Best interests’

On Monday, legal arguments were renewed at the High Court following the families’ successful appeal over a previous high court ruling which said Archie’s life-support should be removed.

Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance, 46, and father, Paul Battersbee, from Southend-On-Sea, have been fighting a legal battle since their son was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck in what is believed to be a tragic accident in April.

Doctors, who cannot be identified because of reporting restrictions imposed by the Court, have asked the Family Division of the High Court to rule that it is in Archie’s “best interests” for life support to be removed, resulting in immediate death.

Mr Justice Hayden has presided over a series similar cases involving critically ill children and adults. He is best known for presiding over the 2018 case of 1-year-old Alfie Evans, where he ruled it was in Alfie’s best interests to remove life support and prohibited his parents from taking him to an Italian hospital which was prepared to provide treatment.

Mother’s testimony

At the hearing this Monday, Hollie Dance spoke about the immense pressure the family has been under having to defend and fight for Archie’s life in court and the impact it has had on her.

In response to the argument put forward by the hospital that a ‘planned’ death for Archie would be more ‘dignified’ and in his ‘best interests’, Hollie said:

“I am going to stay with Archie in Hospital for as long as it takes. The doctors predict that in a near future, Archie will have a multiple organ failure which will lead to cardiac arrest. If that happens, I am likely to be in the room. I find that scenario much more acceptable than the ‘planned death’ which they propose. I would accept this as God’s decision. The ‘planned’ removal of the ventilator is definitely the worst thing that may happen from my point of view. I cannot see how this is in any way dignified.”

Speaking about Archie’s Christian faith, which she believes would mean Archie would not want a planned death, Hollie said:

“Archie was asking me to get him baptised over a few years before his accident, particularly after he started watching a lot of box fights on TV. Many boxers pray for protection when they go into the ring. The more and more fights he’d watch with his brother, the more he would be nagging me to get him baptised. Every time we drove past St Mary’s Church, he shouted out his most predictable line without fail, ‘Mum when can we go and be christened in there’.”

Therefore, she argued that Archie: “Would feel it is only for God to come and take him out of this world when the time is right for that. Until that time, Archie would want to remain with me and the rest of the family, even without knowing that himself.”

Archie and the whole family have subsequently been baptised in the hospital.

She also cited Archie’s mentality and approach to sport saying that in any situation, including this, he would want to do everything he could ‘to prove himself’ and to fight to overcome the situation he is in.

‘I won’t leave you mum’

Hollie recalled a past conversation and debate she had with Archie and his older brother, Tom, over whether they would want life-support removed if they were ever in such a scenario.

His brother said he would want it removed as he wouldn’t be able to do anything, but Archie is reported to have said:

“I wouldn’t care about that, as long as I am there and I am with Mum. I won’t leave you Mum, don’t worry”.

Hollie added: “As long as he is fighting for his life, I cannot betray him, whether or not there is a realistic hope. I say that because I am his mother, but this is also a matter or human decency. This is why I am upset and offended when I am told by various people in authority that it is time to give up.”

In her witness statement, Hollie also relayed her alarm that a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) has been placed on Archie without the family’s consent.

During proceedings, Archie’s father, Paul Batersbee, took to the stand for the first time. When asked by Justice Hayden if his son would want to be kept on life-support, he replied: ‘Definitely, he is a proper mummies boy and he would not want to leave her.’

Mr Battersbee said: “Archie is a God-fearing boy. When he was going into fights at MMA, he would pray for protection, and then leave it to God to take care of him. Archie has a very close relationship both with me and his mother, and with both parts of the family. If he could decide for himself, I think he would want to be kept alive for as long as it takes for God to make a decision about him. He would not want to leave us before he has to, or to cause us additional grief by dying in a way which is not acceptable for us.”

‘Nothing more traumatic than planned death’

A senior doctor, who cannot be identified because of the reporting restrictions imposed by the Court, however, said that the doctors felt a “planned death” is necessary to protect Archie’s dignity.

She explained that if his life support continues, he is likely eventually to die from infection, and such a death would be “unpredictable, chaotic in nature, and undignified”.

Ian Wise QC cross-examined the doctor on behalf of the Parents and said: “Very many people in intensive care die an unplanned death”.

The doctor replied: “Unplanned deaths do happen, but they are actually quite rare. That is not something we aspire to – when we can, we much prefer controlled final few moments.

“We always try our very best, to make that death as dignified as possible, as controlled as we can.”
She added: “The manner in which withdrawal takes place is very well thought through”.

“The reason why we generally remove endocranial tube and stop ventilation is that this manner of death is a predictable one, it takes at most a few hours.”

Martin Westgate QC, for the Trust, presented a detailed plan for the removal of life support from Archie, and said: “It is a terrible choice but the Trust believes it is in Archie’s best interests”.

He added: “This is about Archie’s best interests and those are not for bargaining”.

Ian Wise QC told the Court that Archie’s mother accepts that “save for a possibility of God’s miracle, he cannot make a full recovery”.

Mr Wise then said: “Regardless, in the meantime Archie has a life worth living”.

As Archie’s mother gave evidence, Mr Justice Hayden observed: “He is incredibly handsome. Nobody seeing his photographs can fail to see that”.

The Judge asked the mother: “I wonder if something which is planned might offer him greater dignity. And you might have a more positive experience. Can you see?”

Mrs Dance replied: “I can. I disagree with you. Nothing can be more traumatic than seeing a planned death.”

‘Sanctity of life’

In closing submissions, Mr Wise said:

“We have heard from doctors and from the Guardian about what they think is in Archie’s best interests. Their views are very welcome and very interesting, but those views do not anchor themselves in the fundamental common law principle of sanctity of life.”

“Dignity can be seen by one person very differently from the other – it is what the beholder sees. In a case where issues are so profound, a finger in the wind is not good enough.”

“Surely the views of Archie and his Father and Mother should carry more weight than the views of those who are, with respect, only passing through Archie’s life.”

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