Archie Battersbee’s parents lose Supreme Court bid to delay treatment withdrawal

A panel of three justices refused to grant permission to appeal against a Court of Appeal ruling, saying it was the ‘correct decision’.

02 August 2022

Archie Battersbee’s parents have lost a Supreme Court bid to delay the withdrawal of his life-sustaining treatment pending a review of his case by a UN committee.

The 12-year-old has been in a coma since he was found unconscious by his mother in April and is currently being kept alive by a combination of medical interventions, including ventilation and drug treatments, at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.

His parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, were granted a Court of Appeal hearing on Monday after the Government asked judges to urgently consider a request from a UN committee to keep treating Archie while it reviews his case.

However, after considering the matter, three judges refused to postpone the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment beyond midday on Tuesday.

They also refused to grant permission to appeal against their ruling at the Supreme Court.

Ms Dance and Mr Battersbee filed an application directly with the Supreme Court, asking for his treatment to continue so the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) could have time to consider their complaint, made last week.

But, refusing permission to appeal, a panel of three justices concluded the Court of Appeal “made the correct decision”.

In a lengthy statement announcing their decision, Lords Hodge, Kitchin and Stephens said: “As this panel stated in its note of determination last week, the justices have great sympathy with the plight of Archie’s devoted parents who face a circumstance that is every parent’s nightmare – the loss of a much-loved child.”

The judges continued: “It has to be borne in mind that, sadly, the central issue between Archie’s parents on the one hand and the NHS trust, which is supported by Archie’s very experienced guardian, has not been about Archie’s recovery but about the timing and manner of his death.

“As Sir Andrew MacFarlane recorded in his earlier judgment of July 25, there is no prospect of any meaningful recovery.

“Even if life-sustaining treatment were to be maintained, Archie would die in the course of the next few weeks through organ failure and then heart failure.

“The maintenance of the medical regime, as (Mr Justice Hayden) held in his very sympathetic judgment, ‘serves only to protract his death’.

“That conclusion was one which the judge reached only ‘with the most profound regret’.”

Archie Battersbee court case
Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance speak to the media outside the Royal London Hospital (Yui Mok/PA)

The panel concluded: “According to the law of England and Wales, Archie’s best interests and welfare are the paramount consideration.

“The panel reaches this conclusion with a heavy heart and wishes to extend its deep sympathy to Archie’s parents at this very sad time.”

Ms Dance said earlier on Tuesday: “We are having to battle over every decision with the hospital.

“There is nothing dignified in how we are being treated as a family in this situation. We do not understand what the rush is and why all of our wishes are being denied.

“I know Archie’s still with us. Archie’s showing very different signs to what the clinicians are actually putting over to the courts.

“He’s very much there, he’s progressing in so many ways.”

A spokesman for the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting the legal action by Archie’s parents, said Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, had confirmed it would not take any steps to withdraw treatment until the Supreme Court reached a decision.

Archie’s treatment had been due to be withdrawn on Monday, after a High Court judge concluded that would be “lawful” and in his best interests, and the family had exhausted all routes of appeal.

The Court of Appeal refused permission to challenge that ruling last week, but the case was brought back before the court on Monday after the UNCRPD requested that the Government “refrain from withdrawing” Archie’s treatment while it considers the complaint from his parents.

Archie Battersbee court case
Archie Battersbee in hospital (PA)

A letter sent on Sunday on behalf of Health Secretary Steve Barclay asked the court to urgently review the matter in light of the committee’s request.

However, Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said on Monday that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, under which the UN committee made its request, is an “unincorporated international treaty”.

Sir Andrew said: “It is not part of the law of the United Kingdom … and it is not appropriate for this court to apply an unincorporated international treaty into its decision-making process.

“Every day that (Archie) continues to be given life-sustaining treatment is contrary to his best interests and so a stay, even for a short time, is against his best interests.”

The judge said that was the decision taken in the courts of England and Wales.

Archie was found unconscious at his home by his mother on April 7 and has not regained consciousness since. She believes he was taking part in an online challenge.

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