High court rejects request to let Archie Battersbee die in hospice

The high court has rejected an application by the family of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee to allow him to die “with dignity” in a hospice rather than a hospital.

His mother, Hollie Dance, said a “dignified passing at a hospice” was all she had left to fight for after the family exhausted all legal routes to maintain his life support treatment. She said she wanted her son to “spend his last moments” privately with family.

But on Friday the high court refused the family’s request to move Archie from the Royal London hospital.

The hospital trust said Archie’s condition was too unstable for a transfer to a different setting. It said such a move “would most likely hasten the premature deterioration the family wish to avoid, even with full intensive care equipment and staff on the journey”.

A family spokesperson said a hospice had agreed to take him, adding: “Hospices are well and truly designed for palliative and respite care. Archie is now obviously on palliative care so there is no reason whatsoever for him not to take his last moments at a hospice.”

The hospital told the family that Archie’s life support would be withdrawn at 11am on Thursday.

He has been in a coma since he was found unconscious in April and is being kept alive by a combination of medical interventions, including ventilation and drug treatments.

Speaking to Times Radio before the latest verdict in the case, Dance said: “The courts keep going on about this dignified death. Why aren’t we allowed to take our child to a hospice and spend his last moments, his last days, together privately?”

She accused the hospital of sending out a threatening letter about the end of his treatment. She said: “The letter that went out quite sort of late yesterday evening saying … ‘You’ve got till 9 o’clock,’ leaving the lawyers again under pressure, which is what this hospital has done from day one.”

Asked what Thursday would be like, she grew tearful and said: “It’s going be awful today. I woke up absolutely sick to my stomach. Like I just feel this hospital have so much to answer for and I don’t really know what else to say today.”

She added: “I wouldn’t want any other parents to go through what we’ve gone through, which is why I have tried to highlight quite a lot of subjects since we’ve been here, like the online challenge, and I know that so, so many people have sat their kids down and used Archie’s story to hopefully save their lives.

“So I’m going to continue to make sure Archie’s name lives on. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that parents don’t have to go through this awful situation with the courts.”

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The attorney general, Suella Braverman, said the case was “incredibly heartbreaking” but that parents had sufficient legal rights and the courts would have looked at the issues “incredibly thoroughly”.

She told Sky News: “I must just put on record my deepest sympathies for the family of Archie Battersbee, I cannot begin to imagine what he and his family have been going through.”

She added: “I think generally, yes, parents do have sufficient rights. The legal presumption is that parents are acting in the best interest of their children until or unless proved otherwise.

“These [cases] are not straightforward. They’re highly, highly complex matters involving detailed issues of medicine, and medical ethics, as well as the child’s welfare.

“And I have confidence that our courts and our judges will have looked at these issues incredibly thoroughly, incredibly sensitively, and have reached the right decision.”

The Guardian

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