Human Rights

UN Committee tells hospital to keep boy on ventilator while it considers his case

ventilator

UPDATE 7/31/22: The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) has asked that Archie Battersbee be kept on life support while it considers his case. The UN CRPD issued an injunction on Friday after lower courts ruled to allow the hospital to take Battersbee off life support, and the UK Supreme Court refused to intervene in his case.

Battersbee’s parents reached out to the CRPD because they believe that taking their son off of life support breaches the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Children. In response, the CRPD requested that the hospital “refrain from withdrawing life-preserving medical treatment, including mechanical ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration, from the alleged victim while the case is under consideration by the Committee.”

UPDATE, 7/26/22: Judges with the United Kingdom Court of Appeal ruled on July 25 that Archie Battersbee can be removed from a ventilator, after his parents lost an appeal. His family will have 48 hours to file an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights.

Bishop John Sherrington of the Diocese of Westminster condemned the ruling in a statement.

“The sad case of Archie Battersbee’s condition is very distressing. The Catholic Church requires moral certainty before it recognizes death,” he said. “We seek and pray that he will continue to be treated with full dignity in his disabled condition with continuation of his life-sustaining treatment in accord with his parent’s wishes until there is a clear agreement that his death has occurred.”

UPDATE, 7/15/22: Justice Anthony Hayden of the High Court of Justice Family Division ruled on Friday that life support could be removed for Archie Battersbee against his parents’ wishes. He said it was in Archie’s “best interests” to die.

“Where, as here, the treatment is futile, it compromises Archie’s dignity, deprives him of his autonomy, and becomes wholly inimical to his welfare,” Hayden wrote. “It serves only to protract his death, whilst being unable to prolong his life.”

This hospital argued that a “planned” death would be more “dignified” for Archie.

Archie’s parents are now seeking permission to appeal this decision. His mother, Hollie Dance, said in a statement, “This ruling is a crushing blow to Archie and his family. With all due respect to Mr Justice Hayden, it is not in Archie’s best interests to die. ‘Planned death’ is another name for euthanasia, which is illegal in this country. 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.

“We disagree with the idea of dignity in death. Enforcing it on us and hastening his death for that purpose is profoundly cruel. It is for God to decide what should happen to Archie, including if, when and how he should die,” she continued. “As long as Archie is fighting for his life, I cannot betray him. Until Archie gives up, I won’t give up. I am living every parent’s worst nightmare. There must be change in the NHS and in the court system before another family has to go through what we have. We will be appealing this ruling and we ask for your prayers and support.”

Dance also spoke of Archie’s desire to stay with her even if he were ever on life support. “As long as he is fighting for his life, I cannot betray him, whether or not there is a realistic hope,” she said. “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.”

UPDATE, 6/30/22: Archie Battersbee’s parents Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee have won their appeal to keep their son on life support. The Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday that the evidence should be reconsidered by a different judge in the family division of the High Court of London. The court said it would give its reasons for its decision at a later date.

“We’re delighted,” said Dance. “We wanted another hearing and we’ve got everything we wanted.”

Paul Battersbee added, “Delighted. It couldn’t really have gone any better today.”

Another hearing is now set for July 11 and Archie’s case will be heard by Mr. Justice Hayden.

6/26/22: Last week, a High Court judge ruled that doctors could stop treating 12-year-old Archie Battersbee against his parents’ wishes after doctors at the Royal London Hospital declared him to be “brain-stem dead.” The parents learned about the decision through an email while preparing to go to court. Now, attorneys for his family say they expect the Court of Appeal judges to consider the case next week.

Archie was found unconscious in his home by his mother on April 7 with a ligature around his chin and head, close to the windpipe. His mother believes he may have been participating in an online challenge and has learned that three minutes went by before she found him. Archie has been in a coma ever since and doctors at the hospital think his ventilator should be removed.

A specialist who has reportedly not been named told the judge that the lower part of Archie’s brainstem is significantly damaged and the upper part is also damaged. He claims Archie’s prognosis is “very grave” and that he has a “very low” chance of recovery.

However, Archie’s parents Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee say that his heart is still beating and they want him to continue to receive treatments. Their attorney said that the evidence has not shown “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Archie is dead, and that a decision of such “gravity” should not be made when there is reasonable doubt.

Dance, meanwhile, has said she has seen signs that her son could recover. Video shows Archie grasping her fingers.

 

 

Dance also noted that Archie’s case has been reviewed by U.S.-based doctor, Dr. Alan Shewmon, who said his condition is reversible. Archie holds his own temperature and blood pressure and has opened his eyes.

“There is no diagnostic protocol for either ‘brain death’ or ‘brainstem death’ that enjoys zero risk of false-positive error – declaring a live patient dead,” Dr. Shewmon told Mrs. Justice Arbuthnot. “The only absolutely sure diagnostic criterion for death is the permanent and irreversible absence of circulation.”

READ: ‘Unwantedness’ and trauma should never override the right to live

Dance told ITV’s Good Morning Britain, “I don’t think I’m just fooling myself. I’m quite honest. What I do know is as a mother, my gut feeling tells me my little boy is in there and I will continue to fight for him. I’m begging the judge to give him time.”

She said that Archie had squeezed her hand and it gave her hope. “Of course, he’s not jumping up and boxing and shouting out and doing his gymnastics off the bed. I don’t expect that. But the fact that he is doing these little things is progress.”

She also told Good Morning Britain that Archie has a brother and sister and that her boys are very close. Her older son would “talk to Archie when he was in my womb. Tommy’s the first voice that Archie recognized.”

On June 13, Mrs. Justice Arbuthnot wrote, “I find that Archie died at noon on May 31, 2022, which was shortly after the MRI scans taken that day. I find that irreversible cessation of brain stem function has been conclusively established. I give permission to the medical professionals at the Royal London Hospital to cease to ventilate mechanically Archie Battersbee.”

His family asked the judge to allow them to appeal her ruling should they prove an arguable case and she has given them the green light to do so.

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