The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Wednesday rejected a UK family’s request to prevent the hospital from removing their son from life support. The hospital placed 12-year-old Archie Battersbee on life support in early April after he suffered a catastrophic brain injury. With the ruling, Battersbee’s family has exhausted all legal challenges. The hospital may now pull their son off of life support at any time.
Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, Battersbee’s parents, began their legal battle in July when the hospital determined that Battersbee was brain dead and should be removed from ventilation. The family argued to the High Court that life support should be continued as long as Battersbee had a heartbeat, given Battersbee’s wishes and the family’s Christian beliefs. The High Court ruled in favor of the hospital, however, finding that continuing Battersbee’s life support was not in his best interests.
Following the High Court ruling, the family approached a UN committee for people with disabilities seeking UN intervention in the UK proceedings. At the same time, Battersbee’s family appealed the High Court decision to the Court of Appeal. On August 1, the Court of Appeal upheld the lower court decision in favor of the hospital, so the family appealed to the UK Supreme Court.
While the Supreme Court stated that they sympathized with the family, the court ultimately upheld the lower courts’ decisions in favor of the hospital on August 2. The court also found that the UN committee did not have clear legal rights to intervene in the UK matter. As a result, Dance and Battersbee could only apply to the ECHR for relief.
The family filed an application to the ECHR under Rule 39, requesting the court prevent the hospital from withdrawing Battersbee’s life support. Rule 39 allows the ECHR to issue interim measures to any state party to the convention—including the UK—where there is an imminent risk of irreparable damage. The family asserted that ECHR involvement was warranted because the hospital’s decision infringed upon Battersbee’s rights under the convention, including his right to life and respect of private or family life, among others.
The court found that the conditions to warrant ECHR involvement were not fulfilled. In a press release Wednesday, ECHR said they would “not interfere with the decisions of the national courts to allow the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from [Battersbee] to proceed.”