Hazel McHaffie

Royal London Hospital

What would you say?

As I write, a blond haired, blue-eyed 12-year-old lies in a bed in the Royal London Hospital attached to assorted machines and tubes and drips. His name is Archie Battersbee. He was an active lad who loved martial arts and gymnastics, until, on 7 April this year, he was found unconscious in his home with a rope around his neck following what is thought to have been a freak accident.

After due observation and tests, doctors treating him decreed that his brain damage is so catastrophic that he’s probably brain-stem dead. They wanted to carry out the necessary tests to demonstrate this was the case, however, they were unable to do so for some reason – I have no firsthand access to accurate information, so can’t say which of the conflicting accounts in the media is actually correct.

But Archie’s parents do not agree with the doctors’ verdict: they believe their son’s heart is still beating and he is ‘still in there’. He must be given time for the spinal injury to heal.

Hmmm. What now? Someone must decide what’s in Archie’s own best interests. But who?

The case must go to court.

At the first hearing, in the High Court family division, the judge ruled that on the basis of MRI scans, the child was indeed dead, and she gave Barts Health NHS Trust permission to disconnect him from the ventilator.

However, Archie’s parents are having none of it. They are determined and they have a team of lawyers fighting for them too.  So the case goes for another hearing.

Three days ago, on Monday this week, the same  judge at a follow-up hearing granted the parents permission to mount a bid to overturn this ruling at the Court of Appeal. The family’s lawyers had made a good case for a decision of such gravity  requiring satisfaction ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ rather than being made on ‘the balance of probabilities’.

Archie lies unconscious and unaware of the headlines his case is making. He is unable to say what he personally wants.
The hospital staff have huge sympathy towards the parents, but their first concern and duty of care is for their patient, Archie himself. They believe his brain is irretrievably damaged and treatment should cease.
The parents believe they have an inalienable right to decide for their son; they love him as no-one else does. They want treatment to continue.
Public opinion is divided.

What would you say?

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