Archie Battersbee life support - who decides?
29 July 2022
On the case of Archie Battersbee, 12, who was placed on life support following an accident at his home in April 2022. His parents have failed in an appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision by the hospital to end his life support.
Professor Thérèse Callus, a family law expert at the University of Reading, said:
"The Supreme Court decision to refuse permission to appeal for the parents of Archie Battersbee means that the declaration that it would be lawful to withdraw the life-sustaining treatment made by the lower court, and confirmed by the Court of Appeal, stands.
"Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have found that it is not in Archie’s best interests for it to continue. The parents want to apply to the UN Committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability in order to argue that withdrawal of treatment violates a number of provisions of the Convention, most probably the right to life, right to freedom from torture and inhumane treatment and respect for privacy and family life.
"Such a tragic individual case once again opens the debate on who is best placed to decide such matters when the medical prognosis is nil, but the court is required to consider wider issues from the patient’s perspective, as represented by his loved-ones.
"It was also open to the parents to apply to the European Court of Human Rights using the European Convention on Human Rights, but in the light of a similar inadmissible claim by the parents of Charlie Gard, coupled with the detailed legal analysis of the Court of Appeal, the prospect of buying more time for Archie are vanishingly slim with this route.
"The parents believe that the UN Committee would be likely to find that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability would be violated if treatment did not continue, as they did in a high profile case of Vincent Lambert in France a few years ago. But a full hearing by the Committee would take years.
"The agony continues – both for the family and the treating clinicians who are now being asked to continue treating Archie against their professional opinion, notwithstanding the ruling of the Court."