A High Court judge has ruled that doctors can lawfully stop providing life-support treatment to a 12-year-old boy who suffered a “catastrophic” brain injury three months ago, after reviewing evidence.
Doctors treating Archie Battersbee say continued treatment is not in his best interests and should end.
Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, from Southend in Essex, disagree, and say his heart is still beating.
Mr Justice Hayden, who reviewed evidence at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court earlier this week, on Friday 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.
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”.
“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.