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Press release: Battersbee final* appeal rejected

by Dominic Wilkinson

In the latest legal hearing, in a long running dispute about treatment for brain-injured 12 year old Archie Battersbee, the Court of Appeal yesterday rejected his family’s request to delay stopping treatment until a UN committee had reviewed his case.

Why was the appeal rejected?
Archie’s parents had previously mounted a series of legal appeals against a decision by Justice Hayden in mid-July that it would be best for Archie to stop the life support machines that are keeping him alive. That included an appeal to the highest court in the UK, the Supreme Court.
Yesterday, the Court of Appeal concluded that it would be wrong to further delay the decision. The UN committee had no legal status in UK law, and therefore would not change the decision about what would be best for Archie.

What is the underlying issue?
Archie sustained profound brain damage from lack of oxygen in early April, when he was found at home with a ligature around his neck. All medical experts who have examined him have agreed that he has absolutely devastating brain damage, from which there is no possibility of recovery. Indeed, the doctors treating him initially believed that the brain damage was so severe that he was brain dead. However, the Court of Appeal in another hearing back in June found that Archie could not be declared brain dead (because the usual testing for brain death was not possible). But even if he is not brain dead, there remains a question about whether it is right to keep him alive.

How common are these disputes?
Tragically, for a small number of children who become critically ill each year, medicine reaches its limits. For children like Archie, doctors cannot make them better, and advanced medical techniques and technologies may end up doing more harm than good. Sometimes, all medicine can do is to prolong the inevitable.
It is entirely understandable that loving parents would struggle to understand or accept this news. Many parents might not initially accept the advice of doctors that it may be best to let their child go.
But in the vast majority of cases, with patience, compassion, careful explanation and empathic support, parents and doctors are able to come together to agree on what would be best for a seriously ill child.
In a small number of cases, medical teams may need external help to reach an agreement. For example, they may draw on a clinical ethics committee, or independent mediation, or may seek second opinions from specialists in other hospitals. In a tiny proportion of cases, if parents and doctors cannot agree what would be best, for a child who is stuck on life support in an intensive care unit, the right thing to do is to ask the court to help. The court in the UK has an important role in resolving disagreements about treatment. The court does not side with either doctors or parents. It focuses exclusively on what would be best for the child (the child’s best interests).

Why all the legal appeals?
The UK legal system allows decisions to be appealed to higher courts. In these cases about treatment for children, it is very rare for higher courts to reach a different decision than the initial judges. In cases, like the Charlie Gard case, or Archie’s case, parents may seek appeals repeatedly in the hope that the court decision will be overturned, or perhaps as a way of buying extra time.
In Archie’s case, it appears that his parents may have run out of options, though it is theoretically possible that they will attempt to appeal again to the Supreme Court, or appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Even if those appeals do go ahead and delay things further, they are extremely unlikely to change the ultimate decision.

Sadly, the underlying situation for Archie remains unchanged. The best, and only course of action that can help him now, is to let him go.

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1 Comment on this post

  1. ‘Humane, all too humane to be always wholly true.’
    This is intended to be understood in a fully rounded and inclusive way which builds upon and expands the originating sayings rather than as an unreflective and trite adaptation and regurgitation of older sayings. To make plain:
    A rounded understanding of Nietzsche’s ‘human all too human’ should be included within the conceptual comprehension of ‘humane, all too humane’ as that forms part of and is only expanded by the presented wording.
    ‘To be’ is conceptually part of Shakespeare’s ‘to be or not to be’ and again a fully rounded conception should be included within a comprehension of the complete presented phrase.
    ‘Always wholly true’, conceptually, partially becomes the negation of ‘to be’ forming the ‘or not to be’, which whilst also joining the older phrases together indicates the negation of ego as well as the fragmentation of truth which may allow the finding of the other creating a more always wholly true linking back to Nietzsche’s words. The nod to the restrictive constrains of religions(faiths) by wholly is deliberate and it becomes at the same time comprehended to be reflective of a naturally sought for stability (attraction of the social) in the transient nature of truth indicating the complexity, multiplicity and divergence of human life, advancement, and the knowledge process, which create many truths of their own. All the words, concepts and their negations should be understood as one. And by bringing those things conceptually together, in that one phrase, a more comprehensively rounded and reflective understanding arises.

    Hopefully, as the main emotional trauma of the Archie Battersbee case eventually becomes more understood the necessarily simpler more restricted understandings previously discussed may become widened to recognize, what somebody communicated as a reflection of an English societal problem, but which I consider is more complex than that, as many ethical people will potentially have recognised during their own struggles to find common ethical rules fitting for the characterful ego’s of both individual and social group needs.

    For those who choose to reflect upon this; Is it the moral, unrestricted by the tensions of any allegiance which comes into view, a broader ethical paradigm, another, or merely a philosophical attempt to understand the intellectual progress process from within the paradox of the human condition? In situation such as this one the different affects in the mind of sequenced, advantageously placed and accidental events, may become more apparent when viewed along the scale of the containing paradox, rather than only viewing the events themselves, which also illuminates the importance of privacy for both freedom, free thought and the growth of knowledge.

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