Lawyers representing Archie Battersbee’s family are pleading with doctors not to turn off his life support after a judge ruled the 12-year-old is ‘likely’ to be ‘brain stem dead’ and should no longer be kept on mechanical ventilation.
The brain-damaged schoolboy has been at the centre of a High Court dispute after doctors treating him at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London, said they believed he was brain dead and his ventilator should be disconnected.
The eight-week battle for life-support for Archie
April 7 – Archie is found unresponsive at his home in Southend, with a ligature around his neck.
May 5 – The Royal London Hospital, which is treating Archie, asked a judge to decide what was is in his best interests because medics believed he was braindead.
May 13 – The judge calls for Archie to have a brain stem test after a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Friday.
June 1 – Judge Arbuthnot visits Archie in hospital to see for herself his condition and treatment.
June 7 – High Court hearing to work out what should happen is told parts of Archie’s brain are dead.
June 8 – A medical specialist tells judge Mrs Justice Arbuthnot tests showed no ‘discernible’ brain activity’.
June 13 – The judge rules Archie is ‘likely’ brain dead and life support should stop. His family say they will appeal the ruling in a ‘legally complex’ process that could take months to conclude.
His parents, Hollie Dance, 46, and Paul Battersbee, 56, want his treatment to continue and believe, if given more time, his condition could improve.
Archie has been in a coma since he was found unresponsive with a ligature around his neck at his home in Southend, Essex, on April 7.
Ms Dance believes her son, a talented gymnast, choked while taking part in a viral social media trend known as the ‘blackout challenge’ that first began circulating online 14 years ago.
On the eve of the decision, she issued a last-gasp appeal to the High Court judge to ‘find it in your heart to give my son the time to heal’.
But in her ruling today, Mrs Justice Arbuthnot said: ‘I find that Archie died at noon on May 31 2022, which was shortly after the MRI scans taken that day,’ said the judge in a written ruling.
‘I find that irreversible cessation of brain stem function has been conclusively established.
‘I give permission to the medical professionals at the Royal London Hospital to cease to ventilate mechanically Archie Battersbee.’
Speaking after the hearing, Ms Dance fought back tears as she vowed to challenge the ruling.
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot has not yet given a timeframe for an appeal to be lodged, but lawyers representing the family say they will be asking for the life support to not be switched off until an appeal process has concluded.
Arguments would be heard by the Court of Appeal, which has the power to dismiss the appeal, but if given the green light, the case could be heard.
A spokesperson for the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting the family’s case, said the ‘legally complex’ process could take months.
Ms Dance said today: ‘I am devastated and extremely disappointed by the judge’s ruling after weeks of fighting a legal battle, when I wanted to be by my little boy’s bedside.
‘Basing a judgement on an MRI test and is ‘likely’ to be dead is not good enough. I feel sickened at the hospital and the judge have failed to put the wishes of the family into consideration.
‘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 wont accept he should go. I know of miracles when people have come back from being braindead.
‘We do intend on appealing, this is only the start, I will not give up my fight for my son.’
Archie Battersbee’s mother, Hollie Dance, (centre-right) speaking outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, after the High Court judgement on the future of the 12-year-old boy
Archie has not regained consciousness after he was found unresponsive with a ligature around his neck at his home in Southend, Essex on April 7
Archie Battersbee’s mother, Hollie Dance, (centre-left) supported by friends and family after speaking this morning
A mother’s anguish: Hollie Dance after learning the judge’s decision on whether her son Archie should be kept alive on life support
Archie Battersbee’s brother Tom Summers kisses him on the head in hospital as he visited him on Wednesday
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘This ruling is a devastating moment for Archie and his family.
‘The idea that death can be declared on the balance of probability is frankly ludicrous.
‘Life is the most precious gift that we have. This ruling sets a troubling and dark precedent.
‘This case has raised significant moral, legal and medical questions as to when a person is dead.
‘Archie’s parents do not accept that he is dead and are fighting courageously for his life.
They will not give up now and intend to appeal. We will continue to stand with the family and continue to pray for a miracle.’
Alistair Chesser, the chief medical officer at Barts Health NHS Trust, expressed sympathies for Archie’s family today, adding that the hospital will give them time to appeal.
Speaking outside the Royal London Hospital, Mr Chesser said: ‘This is a sad and difficult time for Archie’s family and our thoughts and sympathies are with them as they come to terms with what has happened.
Hollie Dance, 46, (right) has begged a High Court judge to allow Archie Battersbee’s life support treatment to continue after he choked while reportedly performing an online ‘blackout’ craze
Ms Dance described her son as a ‘happy’, ‘high-spirited’ ‘daredevil’, who enjoys mixed martial arts and trains with South Essex Gymnastics Club
Archie, pictured wearing a medal and holding a trophy, was a talented gymnast. His mother believes he was taking part in a viral social media challenge when he was found injured
Chief Medical Officer of Barts Health NHS Trust Alistair Chesser speaking outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel
‘In line with the guidance issued by the court, our expert clinicians will provide the best possible care while life support is withdrawn.
‘We are also ensuring that there is time for the family to decide whether they wish to appeal before any changes to care are made.’
The family were represented in court by lawyer Bruno Quintavalle and consultant Pavel Stroilov, who worked on the Alfie Evans case. The family of Alfie, a 23-month old boy, lost a High Court life support dispute after Alder Hey Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust argued that it was not in his ‘best interests’ to continue treatment.
His family wanted his treatment to continue in Italy, but a High Court judge ruled against them, before the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court dismissed their appeals. He died in April 2018.
Ms Dance has said fighting for her son’s treatment to continue has been ‘agonising’, adding that there are ‘a lot of kids being sentenced to death’ by decisions made at the Royal London Hospital where he is on life support.
Also speaking with journalists outside the hospital in Whitechapel, east London, she said: ‘I’m not the only one going through this.
‘There’s people up there (in the hospital) at the moment who have been told on day three that their child is brain dead.
‘There’s a lot of kids being sentenced to death through this hospital. This is not just for Archie now, it’s for the other children as well.’
When asked what the last few weeks had been like, she said: ‘Agonising. ‘It’s torture, it’s not just appearing in court for those two hours, I’m leaving in at 9am and getting back to the hospital at 7.30 at night.
‘Because that’s my little boy in there, that time is precious.’
Hollie Dance has described receiving the High Court decision on her son’s life support online rather than having it read out in court by the judge as ‘shameful’ and ‘insensitive’.
Ms Dance told This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby that she found Archie (pictured) with something tied around his neck, cutting off his ‘windpipe’
Archie’s father Paul Battersbee pictured outside the High Court last month. He has been fighting alongside Archie’s mother Hollie their son’s treatment to continue
When asked about the way she received the ruling, Ms Dance said: ‘It’s insensitive and it’s shameful but I am going to continue to fight.
‘So this hospital has got the biggest battle ever, because I refuse to give up the fight for my son’s life.’
In submissions made to the High Court last week, the family’s barrister Bruno Quintavalle said the circumstances of the case had never before been heard by an English court.
Last week, Ms Dance revealed the frantic moment she discovered Archie with a ligature cutting off his windpipe on ITV’s This Morning.
She believes he was copying an online craze where people asphyxiate themselves, pass out and regain consciousness on camera.
She recalled the moment she ‘ran out screaming for help’ after snapping the ligature off her son who was on the landing and fell ‘8ft onto the hallway’, where she then began CPR.
‘I ran out screaming to get help, nobody was there so I came back in,’ she said.
Mother-of-three Ms Dance also issued a direct warning to parents about the dangers of social media’s latest craze.
Suggesting her son was taking part in the online challenge, Ms Dance claimed there have been at least 80 deaths, and hundreds of cases of permanent brain damage, linked to the potentially fatal ‘blackout challenge’.
After being taken to Southend Hospital, he was then transferred to Royal London Hospital.
‘It’s important that parents are aware about these things so they can have a conversation with their children,’ she continued.
‘They need to explain what might happen, and maybe use Archie as an example, then maybe the child would take notice and not try it.’
Lawyers representing the Royal London Hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, have asked Mrs Justice Arbuthnot to decide what moves are in Archie’s best interests.
Archie Battersbee’s mother, Hollie Dance, (centre-right) speaking outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, earlier today supported by friends and family
Archie with his mother Hollie Dance (left), brother Tom Summers and sister Lauren Summers in a family photo while enjoying an evening out
Speaking on ITV’s This Morning on Thursday, Ms Dance said: ‘If I don’t explore every avenue, if I don’t fight for his life and later on we realise, well actually we didn’t look into that, we’ve missed something — I’m going to spend the rest of my life not knowing and thinking ‘what if, what if’.
‘I’m going with my gut and… a mother’s gut instinct, I think you should really go with it.’
Giving evidence at the hearing this week, 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’, and added: ‘We believe that it is very likely that he is brain-stem dead.’
But lawyers representing Archie’s family have told the judge that his heart is still beating – and his mother said he had gripped her hand.
They also say there was an issue as to whether ‘the correct procedure’ had been followed, and whether the ‘family’s views’ had been taken into account.
Last week, Archie’s parents made their closing pleas to Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, who is deciding what moves are in the 12-year-old’s best interests.
‘Monday coming will be our ninth court appearance,’ Ms Dance added. ‘He’s been in hospital for eight weeks.
‘Every single minute is precious, and I’m having to go to court and sit there all day. I’m not getting back to hospital some days until half seven at night.’
She described her son as a ‘happy’, ‘high-spirited’ ‘daredevil’, who enjoys mixed martial arts and trains with South Essex Gymnastics Club.
Ms Dance added that since being in hospital, her son has held her hand and opened his eyes.
His blood pressure and heart rate have also been increasing and then dropping, something she has been told could be ‘neurostorming’.
Is brain stem death the same as being in a vegetative state? And what are the chances of recovery? Everything you need to know as judge rules 12-year-old Archie Battersbee’s life support should be switched off
Archie Battersbee would have no chance of recovering if he truly is ‘brain stem dead’.
His devastated parents, Hollie Dance, 46 and Paul Battersbee, 56, want the 12-year-old’s life support to continue, believing he could still wake up.
Ms Dance, who found Archie unresponsive with a ligature tied around his neck at their home in Southend on April 7, after taking part in a viral social media trend known as the ‘blackout challenge’, vowed she ‘won’t give up my fight for my son’.
Brain death 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.
In her statement issued outside the High Court, Ms Dance said she was ‘devastated and extremely disappointed’ by the ruling and was ‘sickened’ both the judge and hospital had not taken her family’s wishes into account to keep him on life support. And she claimed doctors found that her son was brain dead based just on an MRI test.
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 today, she 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 the hearing this week, 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.