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Archie Battersbee: what happened to 12-year-old boy?

Archie Battersbee has died in hospital after weeks of legal battles.

The 12-year-old had been in a coma since he was found unconscious by his mother Hollie Dance in April and was being kept alive by a combination of medical interventions, including ventilation and drug treatments.

Speaking outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, Ms Dance said her “beautiful little boy” died at 12.15pm on Saturday.

Archie’s parents had fought a long-running legal battle over the withdrawal of treatment and in recent days made bids to the High Court, Court of Appeal and European Court of Human Rights to have him transferred to a hospice to die.

Announcing her son’s death to the media, Ms Dance, of Southend, Essex, said “he fought right until the very end”.

Speaking through tears, she said: “Can I just say, I’m the proudest mum in the world.

“He was such a beautiful little boy and he fought right until the very end, and I am so proud to be his mum.”

A last-ditch plea to the European Court of Human Rights to intervene in the case was rejected late on Friday, following a High Court ruling that he must remain at Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.

Archie’s parents had fought a long-running legal battle over the withdrawal of treatment and in recent days made bids to the High Court, Court of Appeal and European Court of Human Rights to have him transferred to a hospice to die.

Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee had turned to the Court of Appeal after the High Court ruled that moving the 12-year-old boy, who is currently in a coma, was not in his best interests.

However they have not been able to proceed with the appeal after it was thrown out by the judge.

Judges concluded: “In all respects, Mrs Justice Theis’s judgment deals comprehensively with each of the points raised on behalf of the parents.

“We have reached the clear conclusion that each of her decisions was right for the reasons she gave.

“It follows that the proposed appeal has no prospect of success and there is no other compelling reason for the Court of Appeal to hear an appeal.”

The 12-year-old has been in a coma since he was found unconscious by his mother in April and is currently being kept alive by a combination of medical interventions, including ventilation and drug treatments, at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.

His parents have fought a long-running legal battle over the withdrawal of his treatment, which ultimately failed on Wednesday when the European Court of Human Rights refused to intervene.

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

Doctors treating the schoolboy for the last four months declared Archie to be “brain-stem dead”, prompting a lengthy but ultimately failed legal battle by his family to continue his life support treatment in the hope he would recover.

On Wednesday (3 August), the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused an application to stop doctors withdrawing Archie’s life support.

His mother Hollie Dance, and father Paul Battersbee, launched an urgent bid to have him transferred to a hospice to die, resulting in a hearing which ran until late on Thursday (4 August) night.

But, in a ruling on Friday (5 August) morning, Mrs Justice Theis concluded it was not in Archie’s best interests to be moved.

Hollie Dance, the boy’s mother, said she wanted her son to “spend his last moments” together with family privately.

The 12-year-old boy 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, at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.

Barts Health NHS 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.

A family spokeswoman said a hospice had agreed to take him.

Archie’s parents were granted a Court of Appeal hearing on Monday (1 August) after the government asked judges to urgently consider a request from a UN committee to keep treating Archie while it reviews his case. However, three judges refused to postpone the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment beyond midday on Tuesday, and also refused to grant permission to appeal against their ruling at the Supreme Court.

Speaking to Times Radio on Thursday morning, Ms Dance said the hospital previously told them they would be able to move Archie to a hospice but then they “just totally went back on their word”.

Asked what the day was going to be like, she grew tearful and said: “It’s going be awful today.

“I woke up absolutely sick to my stomach. Like I just feel this hospital have so much to answer for and I don’t really know what else to say today.”

Supreme Court judges said they have “great sympathy” with Archie’s parents, but added that there is “no prospect of any meaningful recovery”.

So, just what happened to Archie Battersbee, what did doctors and his parents say, what did the judges say? Here’s everything you need to know.

What happened to Archie Battersbee?

Archie was found unconscious at home by Ms Dance on 7 April.

The young boy was found with a ligature on his head, with his mum believing that he may have been trying to partake in an online challenge called the ‘Blackout Challenge’.

Archie has not regained consciousness since the accident, and has remained in a coma since he was found.

When will Archie’s treatment end?

It is understood that no changes will be made to Archie’s care while the legal processes are still ongoing.

The hospital had originally planned to withdraw treatment on Monday (August 1) at 2pm.

This was paused as the Court of Appeal held a virtual hearing but it rejected a request to postpone stopping Archie’s treatment and said his life-support care would end at midday on Tuesday (August 2).

This was delayed while the family unsuccessfully attempted to get the Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

Barts Health NHS Trust had then been planning to withdraw Archie’s life support on Wednesday (August 3) at 11am unless the family submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights, which they did.

Treatment was then set to be withdrawn on Thursday (August 4), but this was paused as the family began an attempt through the courts to get Archie moved to a hospice.

Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts Health NHS Trust, said their “deepest sympathies remain with Archie’s family”, adding: “We aim to provide the best possible support to everyone at this difficult time.”

What did the family friend say?

Speaking to the PA news agency before the announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision was made, family friend Ella Carter said the family would prefer for Archie to be in a hospice if his treatment were to end.

She said: “If this is Archie’s last couple of days it needs to be peaceful and it needs to be a calm atmosphere, and it’s the complete opposite really.

“We would really like it to be in a hospice – I mean that’s exactly what they’re designed for, they’re so well-equipped to deal with situations like this.

“If the trust can work with us and co-operate with us in working towards getting him in a hospice we would be forever grateful for that.”

She added: “They (Archie’s family) are constantly talking to him and telling him what’s been going on with the family and his friends.

“We’ve got loads of videos of his boxers giving him inspirational messages, we’re constantly playing that to him.”

What did the judge say?

Mrs Justice Theis concluded it was not in Archie’s best interests to be moved to a hospice.

The judge said: “Archie’s best interests must remain at the core of any conclusions reached by this court.

“When considering the wishes of the family, why those wishes are held, the facilities at the hospice, what Archie is likely to have wanted, … the risks involved in a transfer … and the increasing fragility of his medical condition, I am satisfied that when looking at the balancing exercise again his best interests remain as set out (in the ruling of July 15), that he should remain at the hospital when treatment is withdrawn.

“The circumstances outlined by Dr F of the physical arrangements at the hospital and the arrangements that can be made 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.

“The parents in the email from their solicitors on August 2 confirmed, in principle, their willingness to co-operate in these arrangements.”

After the case was heard at the Supreme Court, the court’s announcement said: “While there was evidence that Archie was a child with religious beliefs, was very close to his mother and would not have wished to leave her alone, those are only some of the factors which the courts have to consider in their evaluation of where Archie’s best interests lie.

“It was against that background that Mr Justice Hayden held that it would not be lawful to continue life-sustaining treatment.

“The Court of Appeal upheld that judgment and this court refused permission further to appeal.

“Now the application is for a stay of the order authorising the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment to give time for the (UN) committee to consider Archie’s case, as the committee has requested.

“The panel is satisfied not only that the Court of Appeal has not erred in the sense mentioned above but that it made the correct decision.”

The judges concluded: “According to the law of England and Wales, Archie’s best interests and welfare are the paramount consideration.

“The panel reaches this conclusion with a heavy heart and wishes to extend its deep sympathy to Archie’s parents at this very sad time.”

What did the doctors say?

Doctors treating Archie at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, said they believed his life-support treatment should end.

Royal London Hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, which is providing Archie’s care, had asked the judge to make the decision.

A specialist, who cannot be named, previously told a judge how tests showed that the lower part of Archie Battersbee’s brain stem was significantly damaged and the upper part was also damaged.

He said Archie’s prognosis was “very grave” and told the judge that the youngster’s chances of recovery were “very low”.

He explained the results of recent brain and spine scans to the judge on Monday 6 June.

He said there had been no improvement since earlier scans were taken in mid-April, but instead there were signs of deterioration.

He added: “[The scans] show much more conspicuous and worse damage in areas that are very critical.”

Barrister Fiona Paterson, who is leading Barts Health NHS Trust’s legal team, asked the specialist if scans showed that parts of Archie’s brain and spinal cord had died and were decaying.

He replied: “Yes.” And he told Mrs Justice Arbuthnot: “The chance of recovery is very low.

“I think Archie has sustained severe enough brain damage that a point of return is unlikely.”

Ms Paterson had earlier told the judge: “The scans, once they are interpreted, paint a picture that may be very hard to bear.”

What have Archie’s parents said?

Ms Dance told Times Radio on Thursday (4 August): “We can’t even have the chance to be in a room together as a family without nurses.”

She added: “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?”

Ms Dance said she and Mr Battersbee were “extremely disappointed” with the Supreme Court’s decision.

A lawyer representing Archie’s parents told the Court of Appeal on 25 July that Archie’s mother Hollie Dance has seen indications that Archie, who is attached to a ventilator, has twice tried to breathe independently in the last few days.

Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain previously, Ms Dance also said she has been at her son’s bedside throughout his treatment and believes she had seen signs he could recover.

She said: "I don’t think I’m just fooling myself. I’m quite honest. "What I do know is as a mother my gut feeling tells me my little boy is in there and I will continue to fight for him."

She said Archie had squeezed her hand in his hospital bed, and it was a sign that gave her hope.

She said: "Of course he’s not jumping up and boxing and shouting out and doing his gymnastics off the bed. I don’t expect that.

"But the fact that he is doing these little things [like squeezing her my hand] is progress."

On 11 July, Ms Dance told Mr Justice Hayden that she was “100%” sure Archie would want treatment to continue.

“I think we come into this world naturally,” she told the judge. “Let nature take its course.”

She added: “If it is God’s will and Archie wants to give up, then let nature take its course.”

Ms Dance said Archie was a “natural-born fighter”.

“If Archie gives up fighting his illness and dies, I can accept that,” she said. “But if we switch off the ventilator, knowing that Archie will die, I cannot agree to that.”

She said: “That little boy is fighting in my opinion. He cannot talk, he is unconscious. I am his voice. I am going to fight for him until Archie decides I can stop fighting.”

Archie’s father Paul Battersbee, who also lives in Southend but is separated from Ms Dance, told Mr Justice Hayden that Archie would “not want to leave” his mother.

“I think he should be left for a bit longer,” he said.

“I am not looking at it through rose-tinted glasses, but it has only been 12 or 13 weeks and doctors have got it wrong before.”

He added: “The most important thing for me is to know he has gone in God’s way.”

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