ANDfor four months he died on Saturday in a London hospital after doctors ended the life support treatment his family had been fighting for.
Archie Battersbee’s mother, Hollie Dance, said her son died at 12:15, about two hours after the hospital began withdrawing treatment. British courts rejected both the family’s efforts to extend the treatment and the request to transfer Archie to a hospice, arguing that no move was in the best interests of the child.
“I’m the proudest mom in the world,” Dance said, standing outside the hospital, crying. “Such a beautiful little boy and he fought to the very end.”
The legal battle is the latest in a series of very public UK cases in which parents and doctors have waged a battle over who is better qualified to make decisions about child health care. This has sparked a debate as to whether there is a more appropriate way to resolve such disputes away from the courts.
Archie was found unconscious at home with a garter on his head on April 7. His parents believe he may have participated in an online challenge that went wrong.
Doctors concluded that Archie died shortly after the accident, and they tried to end the long list of treatments that kept him alive, including artificial respiration, medications to regulate body functions, and 24/7 nursing care. But his family objected, stating that Archie was showing signs of life and would not want them to give up hope.
The dispute sparked weeks of legal disputes as Archie’s parents tried to force the hospital to continue life-sustaining treatment. Doctors at the Royal London Hospital said there was no chance of recovery and he should be allowed to die.
After several courts ruled that it was in Archie’s best interest to let him die, the family asked for permission to be transferred to a hospice. The hospital said Archie’s condition was so unstable that moving him would hasten his death.
On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Lucy Theis rejected the family’s request, ruling that Archie should remain in the hospital pending treatment discontinuation.
“Their unconditional love and devotion to Archie is the golden thread that runs through this case,” Theis wrote in her decision. “Hopefully Archie will now be able to die peacefully, with a family that meant as much to him as he meant to them.”
The ruling came Saturday after both the UK Court of Appeal and the European Court of Human Rights refused to take the case.
But Archie’s family said his death was not peaceful.
Ella Carter, the fiancée of Archie’s eldest brother Tom, said Archie was stable for about two hours after the hospital stopped taking all medications. That changed when the fan was turned off, she said.
“It went completely blue,” she said. “There is absolutely nothing worth watching a family member or a child suffocate. 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 each other.
The hospital expressed its condolences and thanked the doctors and nurses who looked after Archie.
“They have provided quality care with remarkable compassion for several months under often difficult and depressing circumstances,” said Alistair Chesser, medical director of the Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital. “This tragic incident not only affected the family and their carers, but touched the hearts of many across the country.”
Legal experts say cases like Archie are rare. But some disputes where doctors ‘judgment go against families’ wishes have raged in the public eye, such as the 2017 legal battle for Charlie Garda, an infant with a rare genetic disorder. The parents unsuccessfully fought for the experimental treatment before their death.
Under British law, courts often intervene when parents and doctors refuse to treat a child. The best interests of the child take precedence over the parents’ right to decide what they think is best.
Ilora Finlay, professor of palliative medicine at Cardiff University and a member of the House of Lords, said this week that she hopes the conservative government will conduct an independent investigation into the different ways in which these cases are dealt with. Resolving such disputes through an adversarial trial does not help anyone, she said.
“Parents don’t want to go to court. Doctors don’t want to go to court. Managers don’t want to go to court, ”said Finlay Times Radio. “I am concerned that these cases are brought to court too quickly and too soon, and that we need an alternative way of managing the communication between doctors and parents.”
The difficulty for parents is that they are shocked and often want to deny that catastrophic brain damage has occurred, Finlay said.
“When it comes to brain trauma, often their baby looks intact, so their face looks the way it always does,” she said. “So understanding what’s happening in the brain and the amount of damage is something that needs to be thoroughly explained to the parents, and that takes time.”
Archie’s family was supported by the Christian Concern, which campaigns about the end of life and the role of religion in society. The group said it was a “privilege” to stand next to 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 Christian Concern CEO Andrea Williams.