Archie Battersby, a boy at the center of a UK court battle, has died after life support ends

a A 12-year-old boy was in a coma He died for four months on Saturday in a London hospital after doctors finished the life-sustaining treatment his family had struggled to continue.

Archie Battersby’s mother, Holly Dance, said her son died at 12:15 p.m., about two hours after the hospital began withdrawing treatment. British courts have rejected the family’s efforts to extend treatment and request Archie’s transfer to a nursing home, saying the move was not in the child’s best interests.

“I’m the most proud mother in the world,” said Dancing, standing outside the hospital and crying. “What a beautiful little kid and he fought to the end.”

Life support battle in Britain
An undated family photo of Archie Battersby, whose parents have filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights in an attempt to delay the withdrawal of his life support devices.

Holly Dance/AFP

The legal battle is the latest in a series of very public British cases in which parents and doctors have argued over who is best qualified to make decisions about a child’s medical care. This has sparked debate as to whether there is a more appropriate way to settle such disputes outside of the courts.

Archie was found unconscious at home with bandages on his head on April 7. His parents thought he might have been participating in an online challenge that went wrong.

Doctors concluded Archie died of a brainstem shortly after the accident and sought to end a long list of treatments that kept him alive, including artificial respiration, medications to regulate bodily functions and around-the-clock nursing care. But his family objected, claiming Archie showed signs of life and didn’t want them to lose hope.

The feud sparked weeks of legal controversy as Archie’s parents sought to force the hospital to continue life-sustaining treatments. Doctors at the Royal London Hospital argued that there was no chance of a cure and that he should be allowed to die.

After a series of courts ruled that it was in Archie’s best interest that he be allowed to die, the family requested permission to move him to a shelter. The hospital said Archie’s condition was so unstable that his transfer would hasten his death.

On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Lucy Theiss rejected the family’s request, ruling that Archie must remain in the hospital while treatment is withdrawn.

“Their unconditional love and devotion to Archie is a golden thread running through this case,” Theiss wrote in her decision. “I hope now Archie will be given the opportunity to die in peaceful conditions, with the family who meant as much to him as he clearly does to them.”

Archie Battersby Court Case
The parents of Archie Battersby, Paul Battersby and Holly Dance leave the Royal Courts of Justice in London on July 22, 2022.

Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

That ruling was implemented on Saturday after both the UK Court of Appeal and the European Court of Human Rights declined to hear the case.

But Archie’s family said his death was not peaceful.

Ella Carter, the fiancée of Archie’s older brother Tom, said Archie was stable for about two hours after the hospital stopped all medication. That changed when the ventilator was turned off, she said.

“It just turned completely blue,” she said. “There is absolutely nothing respectful in watching a family member or a child choke. No family should ever go through what we’ve been through. It’s barbaric.”

Carter rested her head on Dance’s shoulder and sobbed as the two women hugged.

The hospital offered its condolences and thanked the doctors and nurses who took care of Archie.

“They have provided high-quality care with extraordinary empathy over many months, often in difficult and distressing conditions,” said Alistair Chaeser, chief medical officer of Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital. “This tragic case has not only affected the family and his caregivers, but touched the hearts of many across the country.”

Legal experts insist that cases like Archie’s are rare. But some controversies over doctors’ ruling against families’ wishes have been fought in the public eye, such as the 2017 legal battle over Charlie Jard, an infant with a rare genetic disorder. The parents fought unsuccessfully for an experimental treatment before his death.

Under British law, it is common for courts to step in when parents and doctors disagree about a child’s medical treatment. The best interests of the child take precedence over the parents’ right to decide what they think is best.

Elora Finley, a professor of palliative medicine at Cardiff University and a member of the House of Lords, said this week she hoped the Conservative government would conduct an independent investigation into the different ways these cases are handled. She said that resolving such disputes through adversarial court procedures does not help anyone.

“Parents don’t want to go to court. Doctors don’t want to go to court. Principals don’t want to go to court,” Finlay told Radio Times. “My concern is that these cases are going to court too quickly and too soon, and that we need an alternative way to manage communication between clinicians and parents.”

Finley said the difficulty parents face is that they are in shock and often want to deny that a catastrophic brain injury has occurred.

“When there is a brain injury, their child often looks healthy, so their face looks the same as it always did,” she said. “So understanding what happened inside the brain and the extent of the injury is something that needs sensitive explanation to parents, and that takes time.”

Archie’s family has been supported by the Christian organization, which campaigns for end-of-life issues and the role of religion in society. The group said it was a “privilege” to stand by the family.

“The events of the past few weeks have raised many important issues including questions about how death is defined, how these decisions are made, and where the family is,” said Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Concern Foundation.

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