Press Release

Mother’s urgent appeal to Health Secretary as hospital defies the UN and plans to withdraw life-support at 2pm on Monday

30 July 2022         Issued by: Christian Concern

The mother of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee, has written an urgent open letter (see also in text below) to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt. Hon. Stephen Barclay MP, urging the government to prevent withdrawal of life-support being withdrawn following the dramatic intervention last night by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

Yesterday (July 29) the UN CRPD issued an ‘interim measures’ injunction stating that the UK government must keep 12-year-old Archie Battersbee alive while the committee considers the case. The injunction states that life-support should not be removed despite rulings from the highest UK courts and most senior judges this week.

The hospital Trust caring for Archie has, however, said that they will carry on with plans to remove life-support on Monday 1 August despite the intervention. UK government is yet to respond to the UN CRPD interim measures.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, the families’ lawyers had made a last-ditch application to the UN CRPD following the refusal of the UK’s Supreme Court to intervene in the case yesterday (28 July).

The court order for the removal of life-support came into effect at 2pm yesterday, but the family lawyers sought urgent assurances that Royal London Hospital would not begin removing treatment while the parents apply to the UN CRPD.

The UK has joined the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which enabled the UNRPD to ask the UK government to delay the withdrawal of life support while a complaint is investigated.

The family argue that stopping treatment would be in breach of the UK’s obligations under Articles 10 and 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children.

The UN CRPD has previously criticised the UK system of withdrawing life-sustaining treatment based on the patient’s ‘best interests’ as determined by the Court. In its 2017 “Concluding observations on the initial report of the United Kingdom” on UK’s compliance with the Convention, the CRPD stated: “The CRPD notes with concern that the substituted decision-making applied in matters of termination or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and care is inconsistent with the right to life of persons with disabilities as equal and contributing members of society.”

The letter

Writing to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care this afternoon, Hollie wrote:

Dear Mr Barclay,

You will be aware of the awful tragedy our family is going through since our son Archie suffered severe brain damage in April as a result of an online challenge gone wrong. We are grateful to doctors and nurses at Royal London Hospital for the treatment and care given to Archie in the past four months. However, I am sorry to say that throughout that period, our pain and distress has been being much aggravated by the actions of two or three senior doctors at the hospital, and the management of Barts Health NHS Trust.

From day one, the family as well as the treating clinicians have been put under daily pressure from the Trust to give up on Archie, withdraw life support and let him die. After only three weeks, we were dragged into Court at a few hours’ notice. Since then, throughout these three months, we have been rushed from one court hearing to another every few days, having to fight for Archie’s life against a generously funded army of lawyers and NHS managers.

Throughout these months, we were never given even a few days space to cope with the family tragedy. You will be aware that our case now is before the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, who have last night issued an ‘Interim Measures’ injunction to the UK government to keep Archie alive while the Committee considers the case. Under Article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the UN Disability Convention, the interim measures are binding on the United Kingdom as a matter of international human rights law.

Devastatingly, the Trust’s lawyers have responded by telling the family that the Trust intends to defy the UN injunction and to proceed to remove life support from Archie as early as on Monday 1 August.

If this happens, this will be an extraordinary cruelty, and a flagrant breach of Archie’s rights as a disabled person. Archie is entitled to have the decisions about his life and death, taken by the NHS and UK courts, to be scrutinised by an international human rights body. Hastening his death to prevent that would be completely unacceptable.

I trust that you will now act immediately, as a member of the government responsible for the NHS, to ensure that this does not happen, and our country honours its obligations under the international human rights treaties which we have signed and ratified.

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