Behind the scenes

The battle to keep Archie Battersbee’s life support on

Parents challenging ruling that the 12-year-old is brain dead following accident in April

The family of a 12-year-old boy on life support have been given the go-ahead to appeal against a High Court ruling that he is dead. 

Archie Battersbee was found unconscious with a “ligature over his head” on 7 April at his home in Southend in Essex, reported The Guardian. His mother, Hollie Dance, has said that she believes her son, who she described as a “very talented gymnast”, was injured while doing an online challenge. 

 Last week, a High Court judge agreed with doctors at the Royal London Hospital that Archie was “brain-stem dead” and that his life-support treatment should end. But following a hearing yesterday, “the same judge, Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, granted Archie’s parents permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal”, reported the BBC.

Right to appeal 

Justice Arbuthnot initially ruled that Archie died “at noon on May 31 2022”, based on MRI scans, and gave Barts Health NHS Trust permission to disconnect him from a ventilator.

Lawyers representing Dance and Archie’s father Paul Battersbee, who are separated, yesterday outlined nine grounds of appeal against the verdict. Eight were dismissed by the judge. 

But the judge agreed that evidence had not shown “beyond reasonable doubt” that Archie was dead. Granting permission to appeal on this ground, Justice Arbuthnot “said Court of Appeal judges had never considered that standard of proof issue in relation to ‘declaration of death’ cases”, The Telegraph reported.

 ‘Quite a few mistakes’

Archie’s mother told The Guardian last week that the past two months had been “torture” but that she would continue fighting to keep her son on life support. Dance reportedly said the family believed the judge made “quite a few mistakes” in the case and argued that Archie should be given “a lot longer” to heal. 

“His heart is still beating and we want treatment to continue. My son hasn’t been given enough time and there have been miracles where people have come back from brain injuries,” Dance said.

She added that “there are Covid patients who get six months to a year” on ventilators, while “Archie has had eight very short weeks”. 

‘Glimmer of hope’

Dance told The Mirror that she had seen several signs that her son could be improving, including reacting to “music and smell”.

“His blood pressure went up, so we put on a deep-breathing meditation recording and put lavender oil under his nose and within ten minutes his blood pressure dropped to normal levels,” she said.

“It’s a glimmer of hope. He’s in there and he’s going to wake up, he just needs time.”

Dance also claimed that Archie had squeezed her hand. She told BBC Breakfast that “he’s in there, physically, for whatever reason, whether it’s locked-in syndrome, whether he’s paralysed... I don’t know, but I feel he’s in there”.

Battle ahead

A spokesperson for Archie’s family said they were “delighted” by the appeal decision.

“We were all really convinced that we weren’t going to get permission to appeal,” the spokesperson added. “So we’re more than happy at the decision.”

But legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg warned that the initial decision was unlikely to be reversed. 

“I think the Court of Appeal is very likely to say that the High Court judge saw all the medical evidence, she considered the law – and unless it can be shown that she made some mistake in assessing the law, it’s very unlikely that they will reach a different conclusion from the conclusion that she, the High Court judge, reached,” Rozenberg wrote in an analysis for the BBC

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