Archie Battersbee's parents warn NHS Trust plans to DEFY UN's order

Parents of Archie Battersbee write to Health Secretary appealing for help after NHS hospital trust says it will DEFY the UN injunction and turn off the little boy’s life support on 2pm on Monday

  • Archie, of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, suffered brain damage at home on April 7
  • The 12-year-old has been at the centre of legal battle to keep his life support on
  • His parents’ plea to stop his machine being turned off was rejected by the court 
  • They had gone directly to the United Nations in an effort to keep their son alive

The parents of Archie Battersbee have pleaded with the Health Secretary to prevent an NHS hospital from defying a last-minute injunction from the United Nations that had ruled his life support should not be switched off.

The 12-year-old’s mother and father, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, had asked the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNRPD) to reverse UK doctors’ decision to withdraw the schoolboy’s mechanical intervention.

His family had argued that stopping treatment would be in breach of the UK’s obligations under Articles 10 and 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children. 

Their wish was granted on Friday evening with an 11th-hour legal order that blocked the removal of Archie’s care being invoked by the international organisation.

But Barts Health NHS Trust, the health body now tasked with caring for the schoolboy, was today accused of threatening to switch off his life-support on Monday afternoon despite the intervention.

The Christian Legal Centre, a legal firm who have supported Ms Dance and Mr Battersbee with their appeals, revealed the couple had sent an urgent letter to Health Secretary Steve Barclay demanding he prevent the end of their son’s care. 

The Government is yet to respond to the United Nations’ injunction which was issued more than 24 hours ago.

Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London last Friday. The ‘devastated’ couple lost fights in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal in London where they asked for doctors to keep Archie Battersbee’s treatment going

Doctors have been given permission to turn off Archie’s life support machine, but his parents are trying to continue the fight to keep him alive. Pictured is Archie in hospital

In their letter Archie’s parents Ms Dance and Mr Battersbee plead with Health Secretary Steve Barclay to intervene to prevent the ‘extraordinary cruelty’ of ending their son’s life

In their letter Ms Dance and Mr Battersbee plead with the Health Secretary to intervene to prevent the ‘extraordinary cruelty’ of ending their son’s life.

In full, the letter states: ‘Dear Mr Barclay, you will be aware of the awful tragedy our family is going through since our son Archie suffered severe brain damage in April as a result of an online challenge gone wrong. 

‘We are grateful to doctors and nurses at Royal London Hospital for the treatment and care given to Archie in the past four months. 

‘However, I am sorry to say that throughout that period, our pain and distress has been being much aggravated by the actions of two or three senior doctors at the hospital, and the management of Barts Health NHS Trust.

‘From day one, the family as well as the treating clinicians have been put under daily pressure from the Trust to give up on Archie, withdraw life support and let him die. After only three weeks, we were dragged into Court at a few hours notice. 

‘Since then, throughout these three months, we have been rushed from one court hearing to another every few days, having to fight for Archie’s life against a generously funded army of lawyers and NHS managers.

‘Throughout these months, we were never given even a few days space to cope with the family tragedy. 

‘You will be aware that our case now is before the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, who have last night issued an ‘Interim Measures’ injunction to the UK government to keep Archie alive while the Committee considers the case. Under Article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the UN Disability Convention, the interim measures are binding on the United Kingdom as a matter of international human rights law.

‘Devastatingly, the Trust’s lawyers have responded by telling the family that the Trust intends to defy the UN injunction and to proceed to remove life support from Archie as early as on Monday 1 August.

‘If this happens, this will be an extraordinary cruelty, and a flagrant breach of Archie’s rights as a disabled person. 

‘Archie is entitled to have the decisions about his life and death, taken by the NHS and UK courts, to be scrutinised by an international human rights body. Hastening his death to prevent that would be completely unacceptable.

‘I trust that you will now act immediately, as a member of the government responsible for the NHS, to ensure that this does not happen, and our country honours its obligations under the international human rights treaties which we have signed and ratified.’

The ‘devastated’ couple lost fights in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal in London where they asked for doctors to keep his treatment going. 

Speaking after the UN injunction was announced yesterday, Ms Dance revealed her gratitude to be handed another chance to keep her son alive.

She said: ‘I am so grateful to the UN for their response and acting so quickly for my son. 

‘We have been under so much stress and anxiety; we are already broken and the not-knowing what was going to happen next was excruciating. To get this news now means everything.

‘This is the first time this has ever happened in history of this inhumane system in the UK. 

‘There have been so many ups and downs, but we have put on the full armour of God, gone into the battle and now we have given Archie time, that is all we have ever asked for.’

The Supreme Court had rejected an appeal where they asked for medics to be barred from turning off his life-support machine until they can lodge an appeal. 

Since then they have held discussions with bosses at Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, where he is being treated, in an effort to seek assurances this won’t happen while they appeal to the UNRPD. 

Archie’s parents had argued that the UNRPD protocol allows ‘individuals and families’ to make complaints about violations of disabled people’s rights.

The UK has joined the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which allows the UNRPD to ask the UK government to delay the withdrawal of life support while a complaint is investigated.

The family argue that stopping treatment would be in breach of the UK’s obligations under Articles 10 and 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre who have been supporting the families’ case, said: ‘We are delighted with the response from the UN. It is high-time that the UK’s processes around proactively ending children’s lives came under international scrutiny.

‘We now hope and pray that the UN Committee may do justice to Archie and his family, as well as to other disabled people in UK hospitals in future cases.

‘Life is the most precious gift we have.

‘We have stood with the family from the beginning three months ago following the tragedy and now continue to pray for this beautiful boy, Archie, and for everyone involved.’

Archie, pictured, was found with a ligature over his head in April and has not regained consciousness since

Archie with his mother Hollie Dance (left), brother Tom Summers and sister Lauren Summers

Judges have 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.

A 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 a different High Court judge.

Speaking as they launched their last-ditch appeal today, Ms Dance said: ‘Words cannot describe how devastated we are. 

‘The pressure put on us from the beginning to rush through the process of ending Archie’s life has been disgraceful. ‘

All we have ever asked for is for more time. The urgency from the hospital and the courts is unexplained when other parties have been happy for us to have more time. 

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

‘Parents need support not pressure. It is exhausting what we have been through. 

‘We should not have to endlessly battle the hospital in the courts for what we believe is right for Archie. 

‘Top judges have told us, however, that this is the law, if this so, the law must change. 

‘We will continue fighting for Archie, we will not give up and now await the response from the UNRPD.’

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