Archie Battersbee, the 12-year-old English boy who sustained catastrophic brain damage after he was believed to have participated in an internet challenge, has died after the Royal London Hospital removed life support. The move was the decision of the U.K. High Court, supported through two appeals that ruled that it was in Archie’s best interest to be allowed to die.
Hollie Dance, Archie’s mother, made the emotional announcement shortly after Archie died on August 6. Addressing members of the press outside the hospital, she said she was “the proudest mum in the world.” Standing beside her remaining children, she recalled Archie’s long struggle, saying he was “Such a beautiful little boy and he fought right until the very end.”
Archie’s case began when he was discovered unresponsive with a ligature around his neck in early April. He was pronounced brain dead at the Royal London Hospital, at which point his parents began fighting the diagnosis and suggestions that he be removed from life support in the UK court. For four months the family appeared in court through the initial case and two appeals with the court ruling in agreement with the hospital each time.
After the second appeal, Archie’s parents attempted to have the case heard by the European Court of Human Rights in France, but were denied. The family was also denied a third appeal, at which point they requested that Archie be moved to hospice to die more comfortably. According to CBS News, this too was denied them on the grounds that his condition was too unstable and the move would hasten his death.
High Court Judge Lucy Theis, who rejected the plea for hospice, said in her decision:
“Their unconditional love and dedication to Archie is a golden thread that runs through this case,” Theis wrote in her decision. “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.”
The court has repeatedly noted that its decision was made to allow Archie a dignified death, but his family disagrees. The fiance of Archie’s eldest brother Tom, Ella Carter, explained to CBS that Archie was fine for two hours after the hospital stopped his medication, but slowly suffocated after the removal of life support deprived him of oxygen. Carter said:
“He went completely blue,” she said. “There is absolutely nothing dignified about watching a family member or a child suffocate. No family should ever have to go through what we’ve been through. It’s barbaric.”
A bishop responds
Following the decision of the high court not to place Archie in hospice, Bishop John Sherrington of the Diocese of Westminster assured Archie’s family of his prayers and support as they go through these heartbreaking circumstances. The bishop wrote:
“As his life support will now be withdrawn, every step must recognize his inherent dignity as a person created in the image and likeness of God. The process of compassionate accompaniment of Archie and his parents at this time of saying goodbye is so important.”
Bishop Sherrington went on to call for lawmakers to find a better way for mediation between parents and health professionals in order to keep distraught families out of court for matters as sensitive as this.
“Whilst the Catholic Church recognises that there are situations when medical treatment to sustain life is no longer obligatory if there is no hope of recovery, ordinary treatment and care should be provided appropriate to the condition of the patient.”