Today (25 July) the Court of Appeal has refused Archie Battersbee’s family permission to appeal a High Court judgment that ruled that the 12-year-old’s life-support should be withdrawn against their wishes.
Sir Andrew McFarlane – the president of the Family Division of the High Court and the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Peter Jackson, dismissed the permission to appeal ruling that: “I recognise the outcome is not the one the family hoped for,” and added that “Archie’s religious beliefs were insufficient” to justify the continuation of life-support and that continued treatment “would not be lawful.”
The family will now consider their legal options and have a stay of execution until 2pm Wednesday 27 July.
Attempts to breathe and father hospitalised
The judgment comes following video evidence from Archie’s mum, Hollie Dance, which suggested that the 12-year-old had made attempts to take breaths over the weekend.
Ahead of the hearing, Archie’s father, Paul Battersbee, was also taken to hospital after suffering a suspected heart attack or stroke.
The hearing continued despite requests from Archie’s family for the hearing to be adjourned.
‘Rollercoaster’ legal batter
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.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, in a rolled-up hearing, the parents’ lawyers had argued that the High Court had “erred in law” by ruling that it is in Archie’s ‘best interests’ to die.
Barrister Edward Devereux QC, leading the legal team for Archie’s parents, had argued at the appeal hearing that Mr Justice Hayden had not given “real or proper weight” to Archie’s previously expressed wishes and religious beliefs. He also argued the High Court judge had not given “real or proper weight” to Archie’s family’s wishes; had failed to carry out a “comprehensive evaluation” of the benefits and burdens of continuing life-support treatment; and had been wrong to conclude that treatment was burdensome and futile.
Archie’s parents have had to endure a rollercoaster legal battle, losing in the High Court in May, winning in the Court of Appeal in June only to lose again in the High Court last week.
Having initially lost in the High Court, they became the first family in recorded legal history to win an appeal to the Court of Appeal in a case of this kind.
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.
At the hearing at the High Court on 13 July, 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’
In court, 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 Battersbee, 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 mummy’s 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.”
The court ‘hasn’t respected Archie’s wishes’
Responding to the ruling Archie’s mum, Hollie, said: “All we have asked for from the beginning is for Archie to be given more time and for Archie’s wishes and ours to be respected. As long as Archie is alive, I will never give up on him, he is too good to give up on.
“When he is to die, we believe it should be in God’s way and in God’s time. What is the rush? Why are the hospital and the courts so keen to push this through as fast as possible? I don’t believe there is anything ‘dignified’ about planning Archie’s death. For me, this would be the most traumatic outcome.
“Parents need support not pressure. It is exhausting what we have been through. We should not have to endlessly battle the hospital in the courts for what we believe is right for Archie.
“Top judges have told us, however, that this is the law, if this so, the law must change.
“For five years Charlie Gard’s family have been trying to get a change in the law. We as a family support ‘Charlie’s Law’ and call on MPs to engage with the bill which if passed will mean parents would not have to endure court hearings over the hospital care of their children.
“I also want to continue to raise awareness about these deadly online challenges. You can be protecting your child 24/7, but the nature of these challenges mean that your child can come to harm within minutes. I urge parents to have the conversation with your children, now, before it is too late.
“Archie is making medical progression which we have not been allowed to address in court, but we are determined to present it as evidence as take this legal challenge forward.
“We will continue fighting for Archie and will not give up.”
‘Nothing dignified’ about choreographed death
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Archie’s parents are not unrealistic. They have been forced into a relentless legal fight because they want their critically ill son to have more time and to be given every chance of recovery, no matter how small those chances are.
“There is nothing ‘dignified’ about a choreographed, planned death at a specific time by removing the life-support of a critically ill child against the wishes of their parents.
“No family should have to endure endless court hearings over the hospital care of their sick children. Parents must be given more say in how their children are treated.
“Families should not have to battle with hospitals over what is right for their own child.
“Following another disappointing ruling in the Court of Appeal today, we would encourage MPs and members of the public to engage with and support ‘Charlie’s Law’ which we pray will prevent more families having to experience what Archie’s family has.
“We continue to stand with Archie’s family.”
Today’s judgment comes as the parents of Charlie Gard are set to address MPs on a proposed law that would help families avoid having to endure court hearings over the hospital care of their children.
Find out more about Archie Battersbee