Archie Battersbee: European court rejects appeal to prolong life support

Court refuses application by parents of 12-year-old who has been in coma since April

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected an application by the parents of Archie Battersbee for it to stop his life support treatment from being removed.

The appeal to the Strasbourg court was the final legal avenue available to Hollie Dance (46) and Paul Battersbee (57), from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, after the UK’s supreme court ruled on Tuesday that further delaying the withdrawal of Archie’s life support would not be in his best interests.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s decision, Mr Dance said the Royal London hospital intended to stop treatment at 11am on Wednesday but with the deadline approaching she revealed an application had been made to the ECHR. Barts Health NHS trust said it would take no action while legal action was ongoing.

Archie’s parents applied to the Strasbourg court for “interim measures”, urgent action ordered by the court in exceptional cases where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm.


They usually involve the applicant asking for suspension of an expulsion or an extradition while the case is considered, as in the case where the Rwanda deportation flight was halted. In Archie’s case the ECHR decided that they were not appropriate.

The 12-year-old has been in a coma since suffering a catastrophic brain injury on April 7th. Ms Dance, who had been at his bedside almost constantly ever since, believes it resulted from him choking while taking part in a viral social media challenge.

After a high court judge ruled, contrary to his parents’ wishes, that medics could withdraw his life support, a legal stay, which prevents the decision taking effect, was extended by the court of appeal on July 25th to give them an opportunity to appeal to the ECHR. They chose instead to apply to the United Nations committee on the rights of persons with disabilities to intervene, believing it offered a better chance of success.

However, when the supreme court ruled on Tuesday that the convention under which the committee operates was not part of domestic law, the ECHR was their last remaining option to prevent the hospital commencing removal of Archie’s life supporting treatment.

Earlier, Ms Dance, speaking outside the hospital said two countries had come forward to offer her son treatment, adding: “If this country can’t treat him or they’re not willing to treat him, where is the harm in allowing him to go to another country?”

She said the offers of help came from Tokyo, in Japan, and Italy.

Asked about what other countries are offering, she said they are “really supportive”, they can offer treatment to Archie, and they have “high success rates”.

Ms Dance added: “There’s other countries that want to treat him and I think that he should be allowed to go.”

She also said a request has been made for Archie to go to a hospice in a “worst-case scenario” but said the hospital has “brutally” said no.

“The courts are going on and really focusing in on the word dignity. What is dignified in dying in a busy hospital room full of noise with the door open, people coming in and out continuously, when Archie could be in a very peaceful garden with squirrels and wildlife running around to have his life support withdrawn there?” she asked.

On Wednesday morning, Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “Our deepest sympathies remain with Archie’s family and we aim to provide the best possible support to everyone at this difficult time.

“As directed by the courts, we will work with the family to prepare for the withdrawal of treatment, but we will make no changes to Archie’s care until the outstanding legal issues are resolved.” — Guardian/PA