Why did judges rule doctors can stop treating Archie Battersbee? Decisions explained
Archie’s Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee have battled for the boy to continue receiving treatment
Doctors will stop providing life-supporting treatment for Archie Battersbee today after a series of legal battles came to an end.
Parents of the 12-year-old boy have gone to the UN, European Court of Human Rights, the High Court, in bids to keep treatment going.
Archie was found unconscious by his mother, Hollie Dance, at her home in Southend, Essex, on 7 April and has not regained conciousness.
The life-supporting treatment was set to be withdrawn on Saturday (6 August) morning.
His parents made a last minute bid this week to move Archie to a hospice to die, but this was rejected.
But why did judges rule that doctors could end his treatment?
Here is what was said at the time.
Why did the judges rule doctors could end treatment?
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot ruled that Archie is dead and says doctors can lawfully stop treating him on 13 June after a hearing from 6 June to 8 June.
His parents appealed the decision.
Mr Justice Hayden, who reviewed evidence at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court, on Friday 15 July concluded that ending treatment was in Archie’s best interests.
He described what had happened to Archie as a “tragedy of immeasurable dimensions”.
Another High Court judge, Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, had earlier concluded that Archie was dead.
But Court of Appeal judges upheld a challenge, made by Archie’s parents, to decisions taken by Mrs Justice Arbuthnot and said evidence should be reviewed.
Doctors treating Archie at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, have told judges they think he is “brain-stem dead” and say continued life support treatment is not in his best interests.
Lawyers representing the Royal London Hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, have asked for decisions about what moves are in Archie’s best interests.
After a hearing on 21 July and 22 July, Sir Andrew McFarlane, 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 again ruled that doctors can lawfully stop providing life-support treatment to Archie.
“The damage to his brain has deprived him of any bodily autonomy”
“Archie’s mother described him as a fighter and I have no doubt he was,” said Mr Justice Hayden.
“But the fight, if it can properly be characterised as such, is no longer in Archie’s control.
“The damage to his brain has deprived him of any bodily autonomy.
“Eventually Archie’s organs will fail and ultimately his heart will stop.”
Mr Justice Hayden said the reality of Archie’s case was “terrible”.
He said: “The medical evidence finds that for Archie improvement is not possible.
“There is unfortunately no treatment possible to reverse the damage that has been caused to Archie’s brain.
“There can be no hope at all of recovery.”
The judge said he had reached his conclusions with “profound regret”.
Ms Dance, Mr Battersbee and other members of Archie’s family were in court to hear the judge outline his conclusions.
What happened to Archie?
Archie’s mother has told how she found him unconscious with a ligature over his head on April 7 and thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge.
He has not regained consciousness.
Mr Justice Hayden said medical evidence was “compelling and unanimous”, and painted a “bleak” picture.
The judge said evidence showed that Archie had suffered a “significant injury” to “multiple areas” of his brain and had not “regained awareness at any time”.
What is the timeline of events in the case?
Archie is found unconscious by his mother, Hollie Dance, at her home in Southend, Essex. He has a ligature around his neck, prompting her to believe he was taking part in an online challenge gone wrong. The boy is taken to hospital with traumatic head injuries.
Barts Health NHS Trust, responsible for Archie’s care at the Royal London Hospital, begins High Court proceedings seeking to undertake a test of the brain stem – which is responsible for keeping people alive – and to withdraw mechanical ventilation.
Doctors think it “highly likely” that the youngster is effectively dead, and say it is in his best interests that life-support treatment should stop. Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, raise concerns.
High Court Judge Mrs Justice Arbuthnot rules that a brain stem test would be in Archie’s best interests.
Two specialists attempt a nerve stimulation test on Archie, but no response is detected.
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, sitting in the Family Division of the High Court, oversees three days of evidence and argument relating to Archie’s treatment. Doctors think it is “very likely” he is “brain-stem dead”. Lawyers representing Archie’s family say his heart is still beating and want care to continue.
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot rules that Archie is dead and says doctors can lawfully stop treating him. Archie’s family say they plan to appeal.
Ms Dance and Mr Battersbee, are granted permission to appeal against the decision.
At the subsequent hearing, three appeal judges rule that evidence relating to what is in Archie’s best interests should be reconsidered by a different High Court judge. Archie’s parents say they are “delighted” at the decision.
High Court judge Mr Justice Hayden hears evidence from doctors that continuing to treat Archie will only “delay the inevitable”. But the boy’s mother says her son is a “natural-born fighter” and urges doctors to continue care.
Mr Justice Hayden rules in favour of the hospital trust, saying the medical evidence is “compelling and unanimous” and paints a “bleak” picture. He adds: “There can be no hope at all of recovery.” Archie’s parents say they will ask Court of Appeal judges to overturn Mr Justice Hayden’s decision.
Sir Andrew McFarlane, 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 are told during a two-day hearing that medical evidence shows Archie is in a “comatose state”.
The three Court of Appeal judges rule that doctors can lawfully stop providing life-support treatment to Archie. Again, the family announce plans to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Archie’s family fail to persuade the Supreme Court to intervene in the case.
Undeterred, the family make a “last-ditch” application to a UN committee to step in.
The hospital caring for Archie says his treatment is due to be withdrawn on August 1 at 2pm. However, it is confirmed that the Court of Appeal has granted a virtual hearing for 11am on August 1 after the UK Government asked it to “urgently consider” a request from the UN committee to continue his treatment so the committee could examine his case.
The Court of Appeal rejects a request to postpone stopping Archie’s treatment. It says his life-support care will end at midday the following day.
Archie’s parents are refused permission to appeal against the latest ruling at the Supreme Court. Ms Dance says Barts Health NHS Trust will begin to withdraw Archie’s life support on August 3 at 11am unless the family have submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights by 9am that day. The trust will not begin removing life-support until all legal issues have been resolved.
The European Court of Human Rights refuses the last-ditch application. Archie’s family say they intend to ask the High Court to allow the schoolboy to be moved to a hospice.
Nearly four months after Archie suffered traumatic head injuries, his parents formally lodge High Court proceedings over the move to hospice care – something the hospital opposes. Archie’s care continues. A hearing takes place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, lasting late into the evening.
Mrs Justice Theis rules it is not in Archie’s best interests to be moved to a hospice. The High Court judge refuses the family permission to appeal against her ruling, granting a stay on the withdrawal of Archie’s treatment until 2pm on Friday to allow them to go directly to the Court of Appeal.
Refusing permission to appeal, the Court of Appeal judges say Mrs Justice Theis’ ruling dealt “comprehensively with each of the points raised on behalf of the parents” and said the proposed appeal had “no prospect of success”.
A bid to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing the High Court ruling violated the European Convention on Human Rights, also fails.
Archie’s family is told his life support will be withdrawn at 10am on Saturday, campaign group Christian Concern says.