Archie Battersbee: What happens when life support is withdrawn for a ‘brain dead’ patient?

The 12-year-old boy has been on the ventilator for months after he was found unconscious at home in April 2022


                            Archie Battersbee: What happens when life support is withdrawn for a ‘brain dead’ patient?
Several pleas to keep Archie Battersbee on life support has repeatedly been denied (CITIZEN GO and Facebook/Hollie Dance)
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The engrossing case of a UK boy named Archie Battersbee has grabbed worldwide attention while also raising numerous difficult questions. Archie has reportedly been on life support treatment for months after he attempted an online challenge in April and was found unconscious by his mother with a cord around his neck.

The doctors treating him have pronounced him "brain-stem dead," or brain dead in regular parlance, and want to withdraw ventilator support that is keeping him alive. His parents – Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee – do not think the same way. They believe that they and their son have every right to get the medical care and to obtain that, they have filed multiple appeals in the High court, Court of Appeal as well as the Supreme Court to prevent the hospital from withdrawing life support services. However, sadly they have been turned down everytime in Archie's "best interest".

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On Wednesday, August 3, they even knocked on the door of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) so that the removal of life support could be postponed. But the institution in France’s Strasbourg rejected it. Now, in their latest effort to give Archie the “peaceful death” he deserves, his family has presented a request before the High Court so that the boy can be taken to a hospice.

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Hollie Dance (C-L) and Paul Battersbee (C-R), the mother and father of Archie Battersbee, speak to the media as they leave the Royal Courts of Justice after winning an appeal for his case to be heard again, on June 29, 2022 in London, England. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
Hollie Dance (C-L) and Paul Battersbee (C-R), the mother and father of Archie Battersbee, speak to the media as they leave the Royal Courts of Justice after winning an appeal for his case to be heard again, on June 29, 2022 in London, England. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

Archie’s mother Hollie Dance said, “What is dignified in dying in a busy hospital room full of noise with the door open, people coming in and out continuously, when Archie could be in a very peaceful garden with squirrels and wildlife running around to have his life support withdrawn there.”

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Ella Carter (C), the sister-in-law of Archie Battersbee, is interviewed by media outside the Royal London Hospital on August 02, 2022 in London, England. Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, the parents of Archie Battersbee, 12, have been fighting against the Doctors treating their son who have concluded that he is brain-stem dead and that continued life-support treatment is not in his best interests. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Ella Carter (C), the sister-in-law of Archie Battersbee, is interviewed by media outside the Royal London Hospital on August 02, 2022 in London, England. Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, the parents of Archie Battersbee, 12, have been fighting against the Doctors treating their son who have concluded that he is brain-stem dead and that continued life-support treatment is not in his best interests. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

What is brain death and what happens if life saving treatment is withdrawn?

As per the National Health Service (NHS), a person is declared brain dead or brain-stem dead when they have been “on an artificial life support machine” and their brain is not working. The site also says that “this means they will not regain consciousness or be able to breathe without support. A person who's brain dead is legally confirmed as dead. They have no chance of recovery because their body is unable to survive without artificial life support.”

Besides, the UK law notes that “if someone's brain dead, the damage is irreversible and the person has died.” The NHS added, “It can be confusing to be told someone has brain death, because their life support machine will keep their heart beating and their chest will still rise and fall with every breath from the ventilator.”

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Archie Batterbee (GoFundMe)
Archie Batterbee (GoFundMe)

Speaking of life support, it has also been said that being on life support does not always mean that the person has died. There are many times when patients are provided with life support treatment for sometime “to aid their recovery and are taken off it when their body can survive by itself,” The Daily Mirror reported.

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But in the case of brain dead, it’s advised to switch off life support so that the patient can die “if there is no chance of recovery.” “When a person who is brain dead is taken off life support, they will die within minutes because they will not be able to breathe on their own,” The Daily Mirror report added.

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