'No parent should have to suffer this' - Calls for reform following Archie Battersbee legal battle

·3-min read
Anguish - Archie's family
Anguish - Archie's family

“SERIOUS lessons” must be learnt to prevent other families experiencing the turmoil and torment Archie Battersbee’s loved one were subjected to as they fought to try and save his life.

Archie Battersbee, from Southend, died on Saturday afternoon, just over two hours after his life-support was switched off.

Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, had fought a long-running legal battle over the withdrawal of treatment.

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Speaking on behalf of the family, Ella Rose Carter - the fiancée of Archie's eldest brother Tom, described the process as “barbaric”.

"We hope no family has to go through what we have been through. It's barbaric,” she said.

Following Archie’s death, Southend West MP Anna Firth, has pledged to push for a “one-off cross-party review to give Ms Dance and her family the opportunity to tell MPs and Peers about their experience.

She said: “After witnessing this case from start to finish, the state process for dealing with the withdrawal of life support for a child where there is a dispute between the parents and the Hospital is just not appropriate.

“I think there are now serious lessons to be learnt from this case.”

When Ms Dance was first summoned to court in, only three weeks since Archie’s accident, she was given less than 12 hours’ notice.

“This was inappropriate and unduly hasty - no time to prepare, no time to process and, most importantly, no-one professional beside them when they needed it,” Ms Firth said.

“Dragging them through legal processes with courts and NHS Trusts, especially without equal legal representation at the start, automatically creates an adversarial relationship between the parents and those caring for their child.”

“I am pleased that the Government has already agreed to a review of the whole system for dealing with critically ill children and I shall be pushing a proper one off cross-party, cross-Chamber Select Committee-style review, in which Hollie and her family have the opportunity to tell MP’s and Peers about their experience.”

When called upon to consider medical treatment of children, UK courts are guided by the question of the best interests of the child.

This is a test which encompasses social, cultural and religious factors as well as medical evidence. While the courts take account of the views of the child’s parents, as in Archie’s case, this is not determinative.

Ms Frith added: “The court room setting is not the right place for settling these disputes, nor should such proceedings be conducted in such a rush where the child is stable and not in any pain.”

“We must prevent these cases reaching court… it is a situation no parent, family, or community should have to suffer”.

Dr Emma Nottingham, a senior lecturer at University of Winchester, told BBC Essex, it was rare for these types of cases to end up in court.

“Although there have been a handful of high-profile cases in recent years, there has been many different possible avenues that parents could have tried and it was important to them to make sure that they had exhausted all of those avenues.”

The Christian Legal Centre, who have been supporting the family’s case throughout, has also called for an “urgent review”.

Chief executive Andrea Williams said: "The events of the last few weeks raise many significant issues including questions of how death is defined, how those decisions are made and the place of the family.

"No one wants to see other families experience what they have been through."