Archie Battersbee cannot be moved to hospice to die, High Court rules

·4 min read

Archie Battersbee cannot be moved from hospital to a hospice, the High Court has ruled, denying an application from his family.

His mother, Hollie Dance, said she wanted her brain-damaged son to "spend his last moments" together with family privately, but the High Court ruled this was not in Archie's best interests.

The judge has also refused permission to appeal against her ruling after lawyers for the family requested it.

Mrs Justice Theis granted a stay on the withdrawal of treatment until 2pm on Friday to allow time for a challenge to be lodged at the Court of Appeal - which Archie's family confirmed they had done by 1.30pm.

Archie's family's application for permission to appeal will be now decided by three judges considering the written arguments without a hearing.

Speaking after the judgment was delivered, Ms Dance told Sky News she feels "sick" and said it was an "outrageous decision".

In a later statement, Ms Dance said: "All our wishes as a family have been denied by the authorities. We are broken, but we are keeping going, because we love Archie and refuse to give up on him."

Risks of moving Archie 'major and unpredictable'

The family's lawyers had first bid for Archie to be moved to a hospice in a lengthy High Court hearing on Thursday that ran late into the night, the culmination of several legal challenges which had aimed to ensure the boy's life-sustaining treatment continues.

But medical experts called the risks involved in the transfer "major and unpredictable", which the judge agreed with. Archie was described as being in a "difficult and increasingly compromised position".

Although Archie's parents recognised the risks in relation to the transfer to the hospice - including Archie potentially dying in transit - they said they were prepared to take them in preference to remaining in the hospital.

A court-appointed guardian for Archie had also expressed concern about moving him to a hospice, although she supported the principle if the risks of transfer were manageable and there was only a very limited delay.

"Archie's best interests must remain at the core of any conclusions reached by this court," said Justice Theis as she concluded he should remain at the hospital while his treatment is withdrawn.

The opportunity for Archie to die 'peacefully and privately'

The hospital has agreed a number of arrangements can be made for the family that will "ensure that Archie's best interest will remain the focus of the final arrangements to enable him peacefully and privately to die in the embrace of the family he loved".

Justice Theis said: "I return to where I started, recognising the enormity of what lays ahead for Archie's parents and the family. Their unconditional love and dedication to Archie is a golden thread that runs through this case.

"I hope now Archie can be afforded the opportunity for him to die in peaceful circumstances, with the family who meant so much to him as he clearly does to them."

Archie, 12, has been in a coma since being found unconscious by his mother at their home in Southend, Essex, in April.

Doctors treating him at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, believe the youngster is brain-stem dead and say continued life support is not in his best interest.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has said that Archie's condition is too unstable for him to be transferred.

They argued that moving him to a hospice via ambulance "would most likely hasten the premature deterioration the family wish to avoid, even with full intensive care equipment and staff on the journey".

'Inhumane' and a lack of privacy, say family

Before the hearing, Ms Dance said: "If they refuse permission for us to take him to a hospice and for him to receive palliative oxygen it will simply be inhumane and nothing about Archie's 'dignity'."

She had complained to Times Radio that the family is unable to be in a room together without nurses.

"There's absolutely no privacy, which is why, again, the courts keep going on about this dignified death - why aren't we allowed to take our child to a hospice and spend his last moments, his last days together privately?

"Why is the hospital obstructing it?"