Fight for Archie’s life ‘gave his father a heart attack on doorstep of court’: Fury as judge orders brain damaged 12-year-old’s life support is switched off despite family’s plea to postpone ruling when his dad was rushed to hospital

  • Paul Battersbee, who is in his 50s, has fought a campaign to save Archie alongside his mother, Hollie Dance
  • He was taken to hospital this morning, prompting family’s lawyers to ask Appeal judges to delay their verdict
  • Ms Dance ‘disgusted’ with judges’ decision to continue with the hearing despite Mr Battersbee being taken ill

Archie Battersbee’s family’s were left enraged after a judge denied their request to postpone a ruling on the brain-damaged 12-year-old’s life support – despite his father falling ill on the way to court and having to be taken to hospital.

The decision to continue with the case despite Paul Battersbee’s illness sparked fury today from the family and its supporters – before a judge ruled that doctors can lawfully turn off Archie’s life support.

The father, who is in his 50s, has fought a desperate campaign to save Archie alongside the 12-year-old’s mother, Hollie Dance.

They insisted their son, who is unconscious after ‘catastrophic’ brain damage in April, had twice tried to breathe for himself in the last few days and needed to be ‘given time to heal’.

Mr Battersbee fell ill on his way to court this morning before being taken to hospital. The family’s lawyers begged Court of Appeal judges to call off the hearing, but they went ahead with delivering their verdict.

Andrea Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting the family’s campaign, expressed her fury at the move.

‘I am very disappointed that they have not adjourned this decision even for a short while after this case had just given Archie’s father a heart attack at the doorstep of their court,’ she said.

Ms Dance was said to be ‘disgusted’ that the case was allowed to continue.

After delivering their verdict, the three judges said they would ‘stay’ the ending of Archie’s treatment for 48 hours to allow his parents time to approach the European court.

Archie, a talented gymnast, has been in a coma since he was found unresponsive with a ligature around his neck at his home in Southend on April 7 – allegedly after taking part in a social media trend known as the ‘blackout challenge’.

Judge Sir Andrew McFarlane, referencing media coverage of the case, today said Archie was ‘no longer the boy in the photograph’ but ‘someone whose every bodily function is now maintained by artificial means’.

Ms Dance said following the ruling: ‘All we have asked for from the beginning is for Archie to be given more time and for Archie’s wishes and ours to be respected. As long as Archie is alive, I will never give up on him, he is too good to give up on.

‘When he is to die, we believe it should be in God’s way and in God’s time. What is the rush? Why is the hospital and the courts so keen to push this through as fast as possible?

‘I don’t believe there is anything ”dignified” about planning Archie’s death. For me, this would be the most traumatic outcome.’

Mr Battersbee is not believed to have had pre-advanced warning of the ruling.

Judges were told Paul Battersbee had been taken ill outside court before the start of this morning’s hearing.

Barrister Edward Devereux QC, leading the legal team for Archie’s parents, asked for the ruling to be adjourned.

He told judges that Mr Battersbee, who is in his 50s, had been taken to hospital and was feared to have suffered a heart attack or stroke.

But appeal judges refused to adjourn the ruling.

Mr Justice Hayden delivered a ruling recently after reviewing evidence at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He described what had happened to Archie as a ‘tragedy of immeasurable dimensions’, but said medical evidence was ‘compelling and unanimous’ and painted a ‘bleak’ picture.

Archie’s parents, who are separated, said the judge made errors and wanted the appeal court to remit the case to another High Court judge for another hearing.

Judges heard how medical evidence shows Archie is in a ‘comatose state’.

Mr Devereux had argued at the appeal hearing that Mr Justice Hayden had not given ‘real or proper weight’ to Archie’s previously expressed wishes and religious beliefs; not given ‘real or proper weight’ to Archie’s family’s wishes; failed to carry out a ‘comprehensive evaluation’ of the benefits and burdens of continuing life-support treatment; and had been wrong to conclude that treatment was burdensome and futile.

But Appeal judge Sir Andrew McFarlane said the challenge by Archie’s parents had no ‘reasonable prospect’ of success.

‘It is clear to me that (Mr Justice Hayden) discharged the important responsibility laid upon him carefully,’ he said.

‘I do not accept there is any prospect of the decision being shown to be wrong or unjust.’

Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Jackson – sitting alongside him – said they agreed.

Sir Andrew, said in a detailed ruling on the appeal bid, that medical staff had seen ‘no signs of life’ in Archie.

He said the case had received widespread media coverage – including a photograph of Archie.

‘Archie is no longer the boy in the photograph,’ said Sir Andrew. ‘He is someone whose every bodily function is now maintained by artificial means.’

Judges heard that Ms Dance found Archie unconscious with a ligature over his head on April 7.

She thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge.

The youngster has not regained consciousness.

Doctors treating Archie at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, think he is brain-stem dead and say continued life-support treatment is not in his best interests.

Bosses at the hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, had asked for decisions on what medical moves were in Archie’s best interests.

Another High Court judge, Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, initially considered the case and concluded that Archie was dead.

But Court of Appeal judges upheld a challenge by his parents against decisions taken by Mrs Justice Arbuthnot and said the evidence should be reviewed by Mr Justice Hayden.

Archie’s doctors insist he is ‘brain dead’.

This is different to a ‘vegetative state’ which happens after extensive brain damage, like that suffered by F1 racing legend Michael Schumacher in a catastrophic skiing accident in 2013.

It is permanent, meaning the affected person will never regain consciousness or start breathing on their own again. They are legally confirmed as dead, with the time on their death certificate logged when they fail a catalogue of tests.

The NHS says it can be ‘confusing’ because brain dead people can still have a beating heart and their chest will ‘rise and fall with every breath’. However, this is solely down to life support machines — not because the person has miraculously regained the ability to do this themselves.

Occasionally, the limbs and torso can move. But this is simply down to reflexes triggered by nerves in the spine that are not linked with the brain. It does not indicate that the brain is still working.

Whereas, it is scientifically possible for someone in a vegetative state to recover. This is because their brain stem, which controls breathing and heartbeat, still functions, meaning they may show signs of being awake — such as being able to open their eyes.

One year after going into a vegetative state, around 43 per cent will regain consciousness, 34 per cent die and 23 per cent are still vegetative.

However, those who wake up are often minimally conscious, unable to communicate and have to be fed through a tube.

Dozens of people claim to have beaten brain death in the past. Zack Dunlap, a 21-year-old from Oklahoma, told of how he heard doctors tell his family he was brain dead following a scan. But his arm moved while he was being prepared for organ donation. He later woke up, recovered and went home seven weeks later.

But the Neurocritical Care Society, a network of more than 2,000 healthcare workers, says it is impossible. Writing in an FAQ page, it said: ‘If anyone claims to have recovered from brain death, then the diagnosis was incorrect.’

The brain stem is located at the bottom of the brain and controls consciousness, awareness, breathing and the ability to regulate heart and blood pressure.

If damaged – through trauma in Archie’s case, or through bleeding, infections or tumours – it swells up but has no room to expand because it is encased inside the skull. This causes pressure to build up, leading to a drop in blood flow to the brain and damage to tissue.

This pressure and swelling pushes the brain through a small opening at the base of the skull, which can not always be stopped or reversed.

When the brain stem stops working, it cannot send messages to the body to control any functions and cannot receive messages back from the body. This damage is irreversible.

Six tests need to be met before a person can be declared as a brain stem death. These include the pupils not responding to light, having no cough or gag reflex and being unresponsive to pain.

Speaking outside of the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, Archie’s mother Hollie Dance said: ‘I do not believe Archie has been given enough time. His heart is still beating he has gripped his hand and as his mother and my gut instincts I know my son is still there.

‘Until it’s God’s way I won’t accept he should go. I know of miracles when people have come back from being brain dead. We intend to appeal and will not give up on Archie.’

His blood pressure and heart rate have also been increasing and then dropping, something she has been told could be ‘neurostorming’ — when the nervous system suddenly reacts, which can be a sign of recovery.

But giving evidence at a previous hearing, a specialist told the judge about a number of concerns noted by Archie’s treating team.

She said tests had shown no ‘discernible’ brain activity, but revealed ‘significant areas of tissue necrosis’, adding: ‘We believe that it is very likely that he is brain-stem dead.’

Two doctors have to agree on the diagnosis and must agree that medicines and hypothermia have been ruled out if the patient does not respond to tests. And the assessment will only be done once any sedatives a patient is on have worn off, as these can effect their ability to react to the test.

 

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