Hospital bosses have told a judge that a 12-year-old boy at the centre of a life-treatment dispute after suffering “devastating” brain damage will probably never regain consciousness or breathe independently again.
Lawyers representing specialists treating Archie Battersbee at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, told Mrs Justice Arbuthnot on Thursday that a “final hearing” should be staged soon and a decision should be made about whether to remove him from a ventilator and end treatment.
They said two specialists had attempted a nerve stimulation test on Archie on Monday, but “no response” had been detected.
Archie’s mother, Hollie Dance, 46, of Southend, Essex, has told how she found him with a ligature over his head on April 7, and thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge.
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot is considering the latest stage of the case at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
She has heard how specialists treating Archie think it “highly likely” he is dead and say life-support treatment should end.
A barrister leading the legal team representing the hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, told the judge on Thursday that a “final hearing” should be staged.
Fiona Paterson said that hearing should take place in the next two weeks.
“The trust remains concerned by the inherently unstable nature of Archie’s condition, by virtue of his injuries, which could lead to his rapid deterioration with little or no warning,” she said.
“The issue with which the court is seized is whether it is in Archie’s best interests to continue to mechanically ventilate him.
“The trust submits that very sadly, all of the evidence… indicates that it is probable that Archie will never regain consciousness (or awareness) nor will he breathe independently again.”
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot last week gave doctors the go-ahead to carry out a brain-stem test in an attempt to establish whether Archie was dead.
Ms Paterson, for the trust, said the two specialists had planned to carry out such a test on Monday but decided not to proceed after first conducting a “peripheral nerve stimulation test” in which no response was detected.
“Regardless of whether a patient is brain-stem dead or brain-stem alive, the test should produce responses in the form of small twitches in specified muscles,” she said in a written argument.
“It is used to rule out any supervening physical cause for an absence of response by the patient to any one of the seven parts of the brain-stem test, each of which are directed towards triggering a response in the patient which involve movement(s) in a muscle group(s).
“Unfortunately, when the peripheral nerve stimulation test was attempted on Archie, no response was detected.”
She added: “Both doctors concluded that they could not proceed with the brain-stem assessment as it appeared that no response would be elicited from Archie during the brain-stem testing regardless of whether his brain stem was functioning or not.”
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