The parents of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee have pledged to “fight” to get him moved to a hospice, insisting they should be allowed to choose where he takes “his last moments.”
After the rejection by the European court of human rights of their last-ditch bid to postpone the withdrawal of Archie’s life support, the family now intends to file an application to the high court in London to transfer him out of the Royal London hospital.
His mother, Hollie Dance, said she felt “absolutely deflated” after the decision on Wednesday evening by the Strasbourg court not to intervene in the case.
A family spokesperson told the PA news agency that Barts Health NHS trust, which runs the hospital, said Archie’s life support will be withdrawn at 11am on Thursday unless a legal application regarding the hospice move is submitted by 9am. She confirmed the family intended to submit such an application, describing it as “completely barbaric and absolutely disgusting that we’re not even allowed to choose where Archie takes his last moments”.
The child has been in a coma since he was found unconscious in April and is being kept alive by a combination of medical interventions, including ventilation and drug treatments.
The trust has said Archie’s condition is too unstable for a transfer and that moving him by ambulance to a different setting “would most likely hasten the premature deterioration the family wish to avoid, even with full intensive care equipment and staff on the journey”.
A high court order made in July requires that Archie remains at the Royal London hospital while his treatment is withdrawn.
The family’s spokesperson said a hospice has agreed to take him, adding: “Hospices are well and truly designed for palliative and respite care. Archie is now obviously on palliative care so there is no reason whatsoever for him not to take his last moments at a hospice.”
Dance said she wanted her son to have a “dignified passing at a hospice”, adding that it is “unfair” they have to “fight” to get him out of the hospital. Becoming tearful as she gave her reaction to the human rights court’s decision, she said: “The one thing I will say is, I promised him I’d fight to the end and that’s exactly what I’ve done.”
Dance and Archie’s father, Paul Battersbee, had applied to the Strasbourg court for “interim measures” – urgent action ordered by the court in exceptional cases where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm.
Such measures usually involve the applicant asking for suspension of an expulsion or an extradition while the case is considered, as in the case where the government’s first deportation flight to Rwanda was halted. In Archie’s case the ECHR decided that they were not appropriate, ruling the application inadmissible.
It said: “The court will not interfere with the decisions of the national courts to allow the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from AB [Archie Battersbee] to proceed.”
Doctors considered that he was brain-stem dead and should be removed from mechanical ventilation but his parents argued that in accordance with Archie’s and their own Christian beliefs, treatment should continue as long as his heart was beating.
After a high court judge ruled, contrary to his parents’ wishes, that medics could withdraw his life support, a legal stay, which prevents the decision taking effect, was extended by the court of appeal on 25 July to give them an opportunity to appeal to the ECHR. They chose instead to apply to the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities to intervene, believing it offered a better chance of success.
However, when the supreme court ruled on Tuesday that the convention under which the committee operates was not part of domestic law, the ECHR was their last remaining option to prevent the hospital commencing removal of Archie’s life-support treatment.
Archie was described by one judge as having had an “infectious enthusiasm for life.” He was a talented gymnast, and a lover of mixed martial arts. His parents said he wanted to be baptized and had told a family member that he would not want treatment to be removed in such a situation.
Judges at the high court, court of appeal and supreme court respectively said his beliefs and wishes had correctly been taken into account but ultimately determined that with no prospect of recovery that continuing mechanical ventilation was not in his best interests.
The supreme court said that it made its decision “with a heavy heart” in a case that was “every parent’s nightmare – the loss of a much-loved child”.
PA Media contributed to this report