LONDON — Archie Battersbee, a 12-year-old British boy who died Saturday, was on life support after a legal battle between his parents and a doctor, his mother said. Withdrawn, which ends another life-and-death agonizing case for critically ill children.
Archie has been in a deep coma with something tied around his neck since his mother found him unconscious at his home in Essex, southeast England, on April 7. His mother, Hollie Dance, said he may have participated in the online challenge.
In a series of decisions, judges found Archie suffered severe brain damage and that the burden of treating his condition “and the complete lack of hope of recovery” outweighed the benefits of continuing to keep him alive on the ventilator.
Archie’s family appealed the ruling, saying they wanted him to die at a “God-chosen” time. They argue that Archie’s intention was to stay alive because of his Christian beliefs and the ideas he has expressed in the past.
On Wednesday night, the family demanded that Archie be transferred to a hospice after failing to appeal to three different courts within a week. Doctors at the Royal London Infirmary refused because of the risks of the move, saying they were likely to bring “premature deterioration”, and the family’s legal efforts to overturn the decision were also rejected.
Ms Dance said doctors decided the timing of a life support device would be “orchestrated to execute my son”. She asked why parents were “taken away from their decisions and rights”.
In the UK, when parents and doctors disagree on what is in the best interests of their children, the courts are called upon to rule. Similar high-profile cases have emerged in recent years, such as those of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans. Pope Francis weighed both cases, with Donald J. Trump providing 11-month-old Charlie with help from the United States when he was president.
Experts say the painful dilemma reflects a shift in doctors making final decisions, which are seen as not only medical but also ethical. If parents disagree with doctors, it raises nearly impossible questions about what kind of life is worth living and how seriously ill the child must be to be considered to have no chance of recovery.
In Archie’s case, doctors said they believed his brainstem had died. However, due to the lack of response, doctors were unable to perform a complete brainstem test, so he was not legally declared brain dead.
At the hearing, the judge upheld medical evidence that Archie had no prospects for recovery. They ruled that medical support “only prolonged his death, not his life,” according to court documents.
Ms Dance said Archie was in better shape than doctors described to the court. She said he was showing signs of improvement, adding that he even shook her hand.
Archie’s father, Paul Battersbee, has kept a low profile during the legal proceedings, but he supports efforts to keep his life alive.
Dominic Wilkinson, professor of medical ethics at Oxford University, said the question boils down to a fundamental question.
“It’s about the use of the drug,” He says. “It’s about making us better, allowing us to live and enjoy our lives. But sometimes all a drug can do is prolong the death phase. Frankly, sometimes drugs do more harm than good. “
But, he added, doctors and families sometimes disagree on the topic.
“Families can sometimes want to prolong life at all costs,” he said, “and health professionals recognize that drugs are reaching their natural limits.”
Last week, after the UK Supreme Court refuse to intervene To delay the cessation of life support, Ms Dance applied to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a branch of the organisation’s human rights arm. The agency said it had asked the UK government not to withdraw treatment while the case was being heard.
“All we’re asking for is more time,” Dance said in a statement at the time. “The urgency of the hospital and the courts cannot be explained.”
“I don’t see any ‘dignity’ in planning Archie’s death,” she added. “Parents need support, not pressure.”
But on Monday, the court refused to extend the moratorium after noon on Tuesday, arguing that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the UN committee had demanded, was an “unincorporated international treaty” and that the decision to withdraw life support could be justified.
The family requested an appeal to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, but the request was denied. The next morning, they applied to the European Court of Human Rights but refused to intervene.
Archie died on Saturday shortly after his life support was withdrawn at 10am.
“I don’t want any other parents to go through what we’ve been through,” Ms Dance told TIME radio on Wednesday, adding that she intends to continue raising awareness about issues such as online challenges for children’s participation, and “use Archie’s story to hope save their lives.”