European court declines to intervene as British parents fight to keep son on life support

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  • European judges refused to issue an emergency ruling on maintaining life support for a 12-year-old boy at his parents' request.
  • He was due to have his life support ended on Wednesday.
  • The boy's mother found her son unconscious at home in April with signs he had placed a ligature over his head, possibly after taking part in an online asphyxiation challenge.

European judges on Wednesday refused to issue an emergency ruling on maintaining life support for a British boy at his parents' request, as they fight a desperate legal battle to keep him alive against the advice of medics.

Archie Battersbee, 12, was due to have his life support at the Royal London Hospital ended at 11:00 on Wednesday.

But his parents had sought a last-ditch ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to keep him alive.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR said in a statement, however, that "The Court today decided not to issue the interim measure sought".

It said that the application was "inadmissible" and such requests were only granted on an "exceptional basis".

The governing trust of the Royal London Hospital where Archie is being treated had said earlier it would wait for the ruling before taking further action.

"As directed by the courts, we will work with the family to prepare for the withdrawal of treatment, but we will make no changes to Archie's care until the outstanding legal issues are resolved," said Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for the hospital's governing trust.

Archie's mother Hollie Dance found her son unconscious at home in April with signs he had placed a ligature over his head, possibly after taking part in an online asphyxiation challenge.

His parents want to take Archie abroad for treatment.

Dance told reporters outside the hospital before the ECHR released its statement:

If this country can't treat him or is not willing to treat him, where's the harm in allowing him to go to another country?

"I will continue to fight right until the bitter end. Is that the way forward in this country then, we're allowed to execute children because they've got disabilities? What next?" she added.

UK courts ruled that ending life-preserving treatment for Archie was in his best interests as doctors believe he is brain-stem dead.

He is currently being kept alive through a series of medical interventions, including ventilation and drug treatments.

Series of cases 

Archie had been due to have his life support ended on Monday afternoon after his parents failed in a domestic legal bid to halt the move.

But the Court of Appeal granted them a hearing on Monday after the government urged judges to consider his parents' application to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The UN committee had asked for treatment to continue while it considered the case.

The appeal judges ruled that the UN request was not enforceable and refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, but granted a delay until Tuesday.

Instead, his parents filed an application directly with the Supreme Court to consider the UN application.

Tuesday's deadline came and went as the top court looked at the case.

The Supreme Court judges said they had "great sympathy" with Archie's parents, but rejected their appeal saying there was "no prospect of any meaningful recovery".

The hospital's planned withdrawal of treatment was again extended after the ECHR bid was filed.

The case is the latest in a series that have pitted parents against Britain's court and healthcare systems.

After a highly-charged battle between the hospital and his parents, 23-month-old Alfie Evans died in April 2018 when doctors in Liverpool, in northwestern England, withdrew life support.

His parents, who had the support of Pope Francis, wanted to take him to a clinic in Rome but lost a final court appeal just days before he died.

Charlie Gard, born in August 2016 with a rare form of mitochondrial disease that causes progressive muscle weakness, died one week short of his first birthday after doctors withdrew life support.

His parents had fought a five-month legal battle for him to be taken to the United States for experimental treatment.

His case drew broad sympathy, including from then US president Donald Trump and Pope Francis, while 350,000 people signed a petition demanding he be allowed to go to the United States.

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