The parents of a 12-year-old boy who suffered a ‘catastrophic’ brain injury have lost their battle to continue his life-saving treatment.
Archie Battersbee, a child with an “infectious enthusiasm for life”, suffered brain damage about three months ago when, according to his mother, he choked to death while participating in a viral social media trend known as the name of “failure challenge”.
Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, from Southend in Essex, had fought to keep their son in care for as long as his heart was beating.
But outside the High Court in London on Friday, Judge Hayden said it was with “deepest regret” that he decided Archie had no prospect of recovery.
After reviewing the evidence, the judge described what had happened to Archie as a “tragedy of immeasurable dimensions”, but agreed with doctors at the Royal Hospital in London who said the child had “died of brainstem”.
It was in Archie’s best interests to stop medical treatment, the judge said. “Continuing treatment is pointless,” he said. “It only serves to prolong his death, while being unable to prolong his life.”
Archie was, the judge said, a “much loved” little boy. His mother, he said, had not left her son, even to return home, since Archie was rushed to hospital on April 7.
His parents and other members of Archie’s family were in court to hear the judge explain his decision that “for Archie, betterment is not possible”.
He added: “Unfortunately there is no possible treatment to reverse the damage that was done to Archie’s brain. There can be no hope of recovery. »
Another High Court judge, Madam Justice Arbuthnot, had previously found Archie to be dead. But the appeal court judges upheld Archie’s parents’ challenge to Arbuthnot’s decisions and said the evidence must be considered.
Dance previously told the court that she found her son unconscious with a ligature on his head on April 7. She thinks he may have participated in an online challenge. The child never regained consciousness.
Hayden said after reviewing the medical evidence he concluded it was “compelling and unanimous” and painted a “grim” picture.
The judge said the evidence showed Archie suffered a “significant injury” to “several areas” of his brain and did not “regain consciousness at any time”.
“Archie’s mother described him as a fighter and I have no doubt he was,” he said. “But the fight, if it can be called that, is no longer under Archie’s control. The damage suffered by his brain deprived him of all bodily autonomy. Eventually, Archie’s organs will fail and eventually his heart will stop.
Hayden said the reality of Archie’s case was “terrible”.
In an interview with the Guardian, Dance said the past two months had been “torture”, but the family were moving forward with an appeal and believed the judge had made “a lot of mistakes” in the case. She said she had seen small signs that her son’s health was improving.
“Archie should be given much longer,” she said. “There are Covid patients who are six months to a year old and are on ventilators and fighting for their lives. Archie had a very short eight weeks and we were in and out of court.
Dance said the impact on the family since her son’s accident had been “emotionally draining”.