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Archie Battersbee: Boy at heart of UK court battle dies after life support ends

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By AP with Euronews
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Hollie Dance, second left, surrounded by family and friends, outside the Royal London hospital following the death of her 12 year old son Archie Battersbee, August 6, 2022.
Hollie Dance, second left, surrounded by family and friends, outside the Royal London hospital following the death of her 12 year old son Archie Battersbee, August 6, 2022.   -   Copyright  Aaron Chown/PA via AP

A 12-year-old boy who has been in a coma for four months died Saturday at a London hospital after doctors ended life-sustaining treatment that was the subject of a lengthy court battle.

Archie Battersbee’s mother, Hollie Dance, said he died at 12:15 p.m. local time, about two hours after the hospital began withdrawing treatment.

British courts had rejected the family’s request to transfer Archie to a hospice, and the European Court of Human Rights refused for a second time to intervene in the case.

“He fought until the very end,'' Dance said, weeping outside the hospital. “I'm the proudest mum in the world.''

Archie’s care became the subject of weeks of legal arguments as his parents sought to force the hospital to continue life-sustaining treatments, while doctors argued there was no chance of recovery and he should be allowed to die.

The family asked for permission to move the boy to a hospice after British courts ruled it was in his best interests to end treatment.

The hospital said Archie’s condition was so unstable that moving him would hasten his death.

On Friday, High Court Judge Lucy Theis rejected the family’s request, saying Archie should remain in the hospital while treatment was withdrawn.

The dispute is the latest U.K. case pitting the judgment of doctors against the wishes of families.

Under British law, it is common for courts to intervene when parents and doctors disagree on a child's medical treatment.

In such cases, the best interests of the child take primacy over the parents’ right to decide what they believe is best for their offspring.

Archie was found unconscious at home with a ligature over his head on April 7. His parents believe he may have been taking part in an online challenge that went wrong.

Doctors concluded Archie was brain-stem dead soon after the accident and sought to end the long list of treatments that kept him alive, including artificial respiration, medication to regulate his bodily functions and round-the-clock nursing care. 

But his family objected, claiming Archie had shown signs of life and wouldn't have wanted them to give up hope.

Ella Carter, fiance of Archie's eldest brother, Tom, said Archie was stable for about two hours after the hospital stopped all medication. That changed when the ventilator was turned off, she said.

“He went completely blue,'' she said. “There is absolutely nothing dignified about watching a family member or a child suffocate. No family should ever have to go through what we’ve been through. It’s barbaric.”

Carter put her head on Dance's shoulder and sobbed as the two women hugged.

The hospital expressed its condolences and thanked the doctors and nurses who had looked after Archie.

“They provided high quality care with extraordinary compassion over several months in often trying and distressing circumstances,'' said Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer of Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital. 

“This tragic case not only affected the family and his carers but touched the hearts of many across the country.''