In a ruling on 13 June, handing down judgment in the Family Division of the High Court, Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, ruled that “on the balance of probabilities” Archie had died. On that basis, she authorised:
“Medical professionals at the Royal London Hospital (1) to cease to ventilate mechanically Archie Battersbee; (2) to extubate Archie Battersbee; (3) to cease the administration of medication to Archie Battersbee and (4) not to attempt any cardio or pulmonary resuscitation on Archie Battersbee when cardiac output ceases or respiratory effort ceases.
“The steps I have set out above are lawful”, the Judge added.
This is believed to be the first time that someone has been declared ‘likely’ to be dead based on an MRI test.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance, 46 and father, Paul Battersbee, from Southend-On-Sea, have been fighting a High Court legal battle since their son was found unconscious with a ligature around his neck in what is believed to be a tragic accident in April.
They had asked hospital bosses and the courts for Archie to be given more time and for him to have more medical tests to assess whether his condition improves before making the decision about withdrawing his life support.
Doctors, however, have insisted said they believe it is ‘highly likely’ that he is already brain dead and asked the Family Division of the High Court to assess the situation and rule that it is in Archie’s “best interests” to die by removing life support.
At the hearing last week an eminent paediatric neurologist, Professor Alan Shewmon, gave expert evidence about numerous documented cases where persons diagnosed as ‘brain dead’ subsequently recovered.
When asked whether there was sufficient evidence for a reliable diagnosis of death in Archie’s case, Professor Shewmon replied “absolutely not”.
In submissions heard at the High Court last week, Bruno Quintavalle,
“That the court should declare, in the absence of any certainty, that death has occurred”, he said, “is an extremely serious issue”.
“If he is declared dead but actually isn’t dead, the consequences couldn’t be more grave,” Mr Quintavalle warned. “If someone is alive when organs are harvested (for donation), then that act of removing a beating heart will kill them.”
Mr Quintavalle argued that for the court to give a declaration of death, in the absence of a brain stem test confirming such, would mean expanding the legal definition of death and be a “trespass on Parliament’s authority”.