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Rejecting Parents' Wishes, UK Judge Orders 12-Year-Old Boy's Life Support Removed - Eminent Neurologist Disputes

Randy Mancini 18 Jun 14

A UK Royal Courts of Justice judge ruled Tuesday that the life support for a 12-year-old boy should be removed after doctors told the court "it was highly likely" he was "brain stem dead."

As CBN News reported last week, Archie Battersbee's mother and father, Holly Dance and Paul Battersbee are trying to give their son every chance at life after he was found unconscious on April 7 with a ligature around his neck. He reportedly had participated in what is believed to be an online blackout challenge, according to watchdog Christian Concern.

The boy has remained on life support at the Royal London Hospital. 

His parents say a video of Archie gripping his mother's fingers is proof that he's still alive and his brain is functioning. 

But his doctors believe there's no hope for the boy to recover since they believe his brain stem is dead. Scans reportedly show blood is not flowing to the area, according to Sky News. The stem lies at the base of the brain above the spinal cord. It is responsible for regulating most of the body's automatic functions essential for life. Doctors have said Archie's stem is 50% damaged and that 10% to 20% of the stem is in necrosis - where cells have died and/or are decaying.

Lawyers for the Barts Health NHS Trust said that doctors have repeatedly recreated the moment of the boy holding a clinician's hand, but the hospital workers said it was just "friction" not a grip, which the doctors say is consistent with muscle stiffness. 

Judge's Ruling

Handing down her ruling in the Family Division of the High Court, Judge Arbuthnot ruled that "on the balance of probabilities" Archie had already died. 

The judge ordered, "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 contends.

According to Christian Concern, this is believed to be the first time that someone has been declared 'likely' to be dead based on an MRI test.

Represented by the Christian Legal Centre, Archie's parents have been fighting a legal battle in order to give their son more time and to allow him to have more medical tests to assess whether his condition improves before making the decision about withdrawing his life support. 

Eminent Pediatric Neurologist Testified About Cases of Persons Diagnosed as 'Brain Dead' Who Later Recovered

Christian Concern noted at the hearing last week, that Dr. D. Alan Shewmon, M.D., professor emeritus of Neurology and Pediatrics at the University of California, gave expert testimony 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, Shewmon replied "Absolutely not."

Following the judge's ruling, Archie's mother, Hollie Dance told Christian Concern the family intends to appeal. 

"I am devastated and extremely disappointed by the judge's ruling after weeks of fighting a legal battle when I wanted to be at my little boy's bedside," Dance said. 

"Basing this judgment on an MRI test and that he is 'likely' to be dead, is not good enough. This is believed to be the first time that someone has been declared 'likely' to be dead based on an MRI test," she explained. 

"The medical expert opinion presented in Court was clear in that the whole concept of 'brain death' is now discredited, and in any event, Archie cannot be reliably diagnosed as brain-dead," Dance continued. 

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She reiterated that she does not believe her son has been given enough time to heal. 

"I do not believe Archie has been given enough time. From the beginning, I have always thought 'why the rush?' His heart is still beating, he has gripped my hand, and as his mother, I know he is still in there," she noted. 

"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," Dance said. 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, called the ruling "ludicrous". 

"This ruling is a devastating moment for Archie and his family," she said. "The idea that death can be declared on the balance of probability is frankly ludicrous. Life is the most precious gift that we have. This ruling sets a troubling and dark precedent."

"This case has raised significant moral, legal and medical questions as to when a person is dead," Williams noted. "Archie's parents do not accept that he is dead and are fighting courageously for his life."   

"They will not give up now and intend to appeal," she added. "We will continue to stand with the family and continue to pray for a miracle."