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Parents allowed to appeal after judge rules 12-year-old boy can be taken off life support

Hospital
The Royal London Hospital |

The parents of a 12-year-old boy on life support in the United Kingdom are preparing for a Court of Appeal hearing this week as they seek to overturn a ruling from a lower court judge who determined doctors could discontinue their son's care. 

Justice Emma Arbuthnot issued the judgment earlier this month that would allow medical professionals at Royal London Hospital to remove life support for Archie Battersbee, who has been unconscious since suffering a brain injury in April. 

Arbuthnot said Batterbee's treatment should end, but she gave Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, the boy's parents, permission to appeal the decision. 

As ITV News reported Friday, judges from the Court of Appeals are expected to hear the case at a hearing in London on Wednesday. 

Arbuthnot spoke with doctors treating the boy and concluded that Battersbee is effectively brain dead and should be disconnected from the ventilator.

Lawyers representing Barts Health NHS Trust, the hospital's governing trust, asked the judge to make a decision in the child's best interests. 

Edward Devereux QC, a barrister leading the parents' case, argues that evidence does not show "beyond reasonable doubt" that Battersbee is dead. He claims that a decision of such "gravity" should be made on a "reasonable doubt" basis. 

In a statement shared Wednesday by the Christian Legal Centre, which is representing the family, Dance and her sister-in-law, Ella Carter, thanked those who have supported Battersbee after they were given permission to appeal the decision.

The mother asked for continued support, saying, "the messages that come through are heart-touching." 

"If Archie can be pronounced dead via an MRI, which is outside the bounds of the law, then what's going to be next?" the statement reads. 

"Archie's words, if he was sitting next to me right now, would be 'it melts my heart,' and I'll use those words now because everyone's support does melt my heart. So, thank you and please continue to support us in this fight."

GoFundMe page established to support the family has raised almost $30,000. 

"We intend to appeal and will not give up on Archie," Dance said in a statement shared earlier this month by CLC. "Until it's God's way I won't accept he should go. I know of miracles when people have come back from being brain dead."

The parents maintain that their son has not been "given enough time."

"From the beginning, I have always thought, 'why the rush?'" the mother asked. "His heart is still beating, he has gripped my hand, and as his mother, I know he is still in there." 

The case is believed to be the first time an MRI test has been used to declare someone is "likely" to be dead, CLC claims. 

In her judgment handed down in the Family Division of the High Court, Arbuthnot ruled that Battersbee is likely dead "on the balance of probabilities." 

"The evidence in my judgment shows a gradual deterioration from very early on in Archie's admission into hospital when he had already suffered a very severe brain injury when blood supply and oxygen were prevented from reaching his brain," Arbuthnot wrote. 

"It is clear from the anxious and careful scrutiny of all the evidence including from clinicians with different specialisms from five separate hospitals that tragically on the balance of probabilities, Archie is dead."

The judge gave "permission to the 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." 

CLC Chief Executive Andrea Williams called the ruling a "devastating moment" for Archie's family. She believes the case has "raised significant moral, legal and medical questions as to when a person is dead."

"The idea that death can be declared on the balance of probability is frankly ludicrous," Williams stated. "Life is the most precious gift that we have. This ruling sets a troubling and dark precedent."

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