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Judge backs brain-stem test to determine if boy is dead

Archie Battersbee, 12, is at the centre of a treatment dispute (Hollie Dance/PA)
Archie Battersbee, 12, is at the centre of a treatment dispute (Hollie Dance/PA)

Specialists should try to establish whether a 12-year-old boy who has not regained consciousness since suffering “catastrophic” brain damage in an incident at home more than a month ago is dead, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mrs Justice Arbuthnot concluded that a brain-stem test would be in Archie Battersbee’s best interests, at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Friday.

Specialists treating Archie at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, think it “highly likely” the youngster is dead and say life-support treatment should end.

Bosses at the hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, asked the judge to rule that a brain-stem test would be in Archie’s best interests.

Archie Battersbee court case
Archie Battersbee’s parents urged a judge to give the youngster ‘more time’ (Hollie Dance/PA)

A specialist told the judge that the brain stem was responsible for the functions which kept people alive.

Archie’s parents Hollie Dance, 46, and Paul Battersbee, 56, who are separated and both from Southend, Essex, have concerns about doctors’ proposals and want treatment to continue.

They questioned the reliability of the test, feared that it could cause more damage and asked why Archie, who lives with his mother, was not receiving treatment to relieve swelling on his brain

Miss Dance has told how she found Archie with a ligature over his head on April 7, and thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge.

She had urged the judge to give her son, a keen gymnast, “more time”.

“Everyone is in such a rush,” she told the PA news agency.

“I’m asking the judge to just give him more time – give him time to fight back.”

She added: “It’s only been five weeks – it took me longer to get over the flu. What’s the rush?”

Mrs Justice Arbuthnot oversaw a private hearing but said Archie could be named in media reports of the case.

A campaign organisation called the Christian Legal Centre said it is supporting Archie’s family.

“The family as well as the clinicians need to know the results of this test,” said Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, in her ruling on Friday.

“I understand on a human level the family’s anguish.

“Anyone can appreciate how much they must dread the result.”

Barrister Bruno Quintavalle, who represented Archie’s family, told the judge: “The family will need some time to reflect on things.”

Miss Dance, who wept as the ruling was delivered, and Mr Battersbee left the hearing without commenting to reporters.