Archie Battersbee 'must be kept alive' while UN considers his case

29 July 2022, 17:56 | Updated: 29 July 2022, 20:09

The UN has ordered the UK to keep Archie Battersbee alive
The UN has ordered the UK to keep Archie Battersbee alive. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Daisy Stephens

Twelve-year-old Archie Battersbee must be kept alive while the UN considers his case, the organisation has said.

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The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities issued an injunction stating that care must not be withdrawn yet.

The organisation asked the UK government to "refrain from withdrawing life-preserving medical treatment" while the case was "under consideration by the committee".

It said the request did "not imply that any decision has been reached on the substance of the matter under consideration".

The UK has an obligation under international human rights law to comply with interim measures indicated by the Committee.

Read more: Parents of Archie Battersbee fail in Supreme Court bid to keep their son alive

Read more: Archie Battersbee’s mum brands judges 'insensitive' after dad 'suffers heart attack'

Responding to the news, Archie's mum, Hollie Dance, 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."

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."

However Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts Health NHS Trust, said staff are giving Archie's relatives time to "come to terms" with the original decision that life support treatment should end.

"We are giving Archie's loved ones time come to terms with the decision of the courts that treatment should not continue and are involving them in each stage," he said, in a statement.

"Any further delay in starting palliative care would not be appropriate without an order of the court."

Archie has been in a comatose state since April
Archie has been in a comatose state since April. Picture: Alamy

Archie's parents Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee have been involved in a legal battle since doctors said they wanted to withdraw care from the brain damaged 12-year-old.

Doctors in the UK consider the 12-year-old to be 'brain-stem dead', but his family insist he is responsive.

Friday's injunction states that life-support should not be removed despite rulings from the highest UK courts and most senior judges this week.

Read more: Mum of Archie Battersbee, 12, vows to fight on after judge rules life support should end

Read more: Doctors can switch off life support for Archie Battersbee, High Court rules

On Thursday, Ms Dance and Mr Battersbee failed in their bid to persuade the Supreme Court to intervene in the case.

Ms Dance and Mr Battersbee want the United Nations to consider the case after losing fights in London courts, arguing it has a protocol that allows "individuals and families" to make complaints about violations of disabled people's rights.

They wanted Supreme Court justices to bar hospital bosses from stopping life-support treatment until they have had time to make an application to the UN.

The court order for the removal of life-support came into effect at 2pm yesterday, but the family lawyers sought urgent assurances that Royal London Hospital would not begin removing treatment while the parents apply to the UN CRPD.

A spokesperson for a campaign group supporting the parents said on Thursday: "The UK has joined the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which gives individuals a right to complain about any violations of the Convention to the UN Committee.

"The committee has previously criticised the UK system of authorising withdrawal of life support from disabled people based on the court determination of their best interests rather than on their own wishes."

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

The family argues 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.

In response, the UN CRPD has written to Archie's parents and legal team saying: "Under article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and pursuant to rule 64 of the Committee’s Rules of Procedure, the Committee, acting through its Special Rapporteur on Communications, has requested the State party to refrain from withdrawing life-preserving medical treatment, including mechanical ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration, from the alleged victim while the case is under consideration by the Committee; this request does not imply that any decision has been reached on the substance of the matter under consideration.

"The Committee may review the necessity of maintaining the request for interim measures once the State party’s observations have been received."

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 since.

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