Court to hear last-minute appeal in Archie Battersbee case

Court to hear last-minute appeal in Archie Battersbee case

Court of appeal to consider request by UN body to review plan to switch off life support treatment for 12-year-old in a coma

Archie Battersbee

A court of appeal hearing will take place on Monday morning in the long-running legal battle over whether to turn off life support treatment for 12-year-old Archie Battersbee.

It is understood the virtual hearing, which will take place at 11am, will consider a request from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD) to keep Archie alive so it could consider his case. A legal stay on the termination of treatment at the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, east London, has been extended to 1pm on Monday.

Barts Health NHS trust, which runs the hospital, had written to the family over the weekend to inform them it intended to end treatment at 2pm on Monday.

Earlier on Sunday evening ministers had asked the high court to “urgently consider” a request by the UN to stop life support treatment being ended for Archie. The letter, seen by PA Media, was written on behalf of Steve Barclay, the health secretary. It states that the CRPD has asked the UK government to refrain from withdrawing treatment until the case has been considered by the committee.

“In the circumstances, we wish to draw the [UN] committee’s request for interim measures to the court’s attention for its urgent consideration,” the letter said. It also requested the letter be “placed before the out-of-hours judge immediately” or before Mr Justice Hayden, who has previously considered the case.

An earlier letter from the committee to Archie’s family said it had requested the government “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”.

Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts Health, said the plan to withdraw medical treatment will proceed unless the court directs otherwise on Monday.

He said: “Our deepest sympathies are with Archie’s family at this difficult time.

“We understand a court hearing will take place on Monday morning and we await the outcome. The plan to withdraw treatment will proceed unless the court directs otherwise.”

Over the weekend Barts Health sent a letter to Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, saying that “all fluid infusions, medications, including vasopressin will be stopped” at 2pm on 1 August.

The child has been in hospital since April after Dance found her son with a ligature over his head. Doctors treating him at the Royal London hospital in east London think he is brain-stem dead and say continued life support treatment is not in his best interests.

However his family have made legal challenges to keep Archie’s ventilator – a machine that helps move air in and out of the lungs – turned on and treatment continued.

His mother had pleaded with Barclay to “act immediately” to stop the treatment ending, saying it would be “a flagrant breach” of the boy’s rights and urged the UN to intervene.

The letter from Barts trust said: “We understand that any discussions around the withdrawal of Archie’s treatment are very difficult and painful. However, we want to ensure that you and your family are involved as much as you wish to be.”

A high court judge had ruled that ending treatment is in Archie’s best interests, after reviewing evidence. Writing to Barclay on Saturday, Dance said: “If this happens, this will be an extraordinary cruelty, and a flagrant breach of Archie’s rights as a disabled person.

“Archie is entitled to have the decisions about his life and death, taken by the NHS and UK courts, to be scrutinised by an international human rights body. Hastening his death to prevent that would be completely unacceptable.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We recognise this is an exceptionally difficult time for Archie Battersbee’s family and our thoughts are with them.

“The government asked the high court to urgently consider the request from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”