Specialists should use a brain-stem test to try to establish whether a 12-year-old boy who has not regained consciousness since suffering “catastrophic” brain damage is dead, a high court judge has ruled.
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot concluded that the test would be in Archie Battersbee’s best interests at a hearing in the family division of the high court in London on Friday.
Specialists treating Archie at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, think it “highly likely” the youngster is dead and say life-support treatment should end.
Bosses at the hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS trust, asked the judge to rule that a brain-stem test would be in Archie’s best interests. A specialist told the judge that the brain stem was responsible for the functions that kept people alive.
Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance, 46, and Paul Battersbee, 56, who are separated and both from Southend, Essex, have concerns about doctors’ proposals and want treatment to continue.
They questioned the reliability of the test, fearing that it could cause more damage and asked why Archie, who lives with his mother, was not receiving treatment to relieve swelling on his brain.
Dance has told how she found Archie with a ligature over his head after an incident at home on 7 April, and thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge.
She had urged the judge to give her son, a keen gymnast, “more time”. “Everyone is in such a rush,” she told the PA news agency. “I’m asking the judge to just give him more time – give him time to fight back.
“It’s only been five weeks – it took me longer to get over the flu. What’s the rush?”
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot oversaw a private hearing, but said Archie could be named in media reports of the case.
A campaign organisation called the Christian Legal Centre said it was supporting Archie’s family. Andrea Williams, its chief executive, said after the ruling: “This case raises the significant moral, legal and medical question as to when a person is dead.
“Archie’s parents do not accept that he is dead and are fighting for his life.”
A Barts Health NHS trust spokesperson said: “This is an incredibly sad situation and our thoughts and sympathies are with Archie and his family at this time.
“Following the decision that brain-stem testing is in Archie’s best interests, we will now take steps to arrange the testing to take place next week as directed by the court.”