The Court of Appeal is based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. / Anthony M. from Rome, Italy – Flickr via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).
Denver Newsroom, Jun 29, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).
England’s High Court must hold another hearing to determine whether ending the life support of a severely injured 12-year-old boy, Archie Battersbee, is indeed in the boy’s best interest, an appeals court has said.
“The ruling shows the critical importance of never giving up,” Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said June 29. “In these difficult moments, nerves and principles are important. This judgment upholds life and will protect many more people from a slippery slope in which the legal definition of death is expanded.”
“Where there’s life, there’s hope. We keep praying that Archie will be able to recover, given more time,” Williams said June 29, according to the London-based public engagement group Christian Concern.
The Christian Legal Centre, a specialist ministry of Christian Concern, has been supporting the Battersbee family.
Archie has not been conscious since he was injured in April at his Essex home in what is believed to have been an accident. The boy’s parents found him unconscious with a ligature around his neck. His mother has said the boy might have been imitating an online social media “challenge,” BBC News reports.
His parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, have asked hospital leaders and the courts for more time and more medical tests to assess whether their son’s condition improves. They note that Archie’s heart continues to beat.
However, doctors at the Royal London Hospital have argued that it is “highly likely” he is medically brain dead. They asked the Family Division of the High Court to rule it is in Archie’s best interests to die by the removal of life support.
The High Court ruled that on the balance of probabilities, the boy had already died and his life support should be removed.
The parents’ attorneys argued that the High Court judge had made errors and had not given enough weight to the family and to Archie’s beliefs.
Lawyers for Barts Health Trust, which owns the hospital, had argued that previous hearings and the judge’s ruling had addressed whether removing life support is in Archie’s best interest.
Alan Shewmon, a pediatric neurologist, spoke against this argument. He told a court hearing that there is “absolutely not” enough evidence to diagnose death in the case of Archie. Shewmon cited many cases where people diagnosed as brain dead went on to recover, Christian Concern reports.
The three judges on the appeals court sided with the family. They set the next hearing for July 11, and said they would give reasons for their decisions at a later date, BBC News reports.
Edward Devereux, who is leading the parents’ legal team, told appellate court judges it would be “unconscionable” not to use a standard of certainty beyond a reasonable doubt in “matters of life and death.”
“Medical practitioners, when certifying death, do not do so on the balance of probabilities,” he said, according to the U.K. newspaper The Independent. He also argued that the High Court judge had not made a “comprehensive” analysis of evidence concerning whether life support should continue.
Bruno Quintavalle, who had filed a submission while acting on behalf of the boy’s parents, said the circumstances of the case had never been considered by an English court.
Quintavalle said it is “extremely serious” that the court “should declare, in the absence of any certainty, that death has occurred.”
“If he is declared dead but actually isn’t dead, the consequences couldn’t be more grave,” he said, according to Christian Concern.
To declare death without a brain stem test to confirm the claim would expand the legal definition of death and trespass on the authority of Parliament, he said. Quintavalle said the criminal standard of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, is a better standard for such cases.
Archie’s sister Lauren has created an Instagram page under the name “SpreadThePurpleWave” to follow his situation. Over 89,000 people have signed a petition in support of giving him more time in medical care, and supporters have given over $24,000 in donations which could be used to help fund any treatment abroad.
Before his injury, Archie was a boxer and gymnast. Celebrity boxers and gymnast gold medalists have sent him videos of support.