A High Court judge has set a timetable for decisions on the future of a 12-year-old boy who is at the centre of a treatment dispute after suffering devastating brain damage.
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot has heard how specialists treating Archie Battersbee at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, think it “highly likely” he is dead and say life support treatment should end.
Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, who are separated and from Southend, Essex, disagree.
The judge said on Thursday that she will oversee a final hearing on June 6 and 7.
She made the decision after lawyers representing hospital bosses said “all of the evidence” indicates that Archie will never regain consciousness.
They said two specialists had attempted a nerve stimulation test on Archie on Monday but “no response” had been detected.
Miss Dance, 46, has told how she found Archie unconscious with a ligature over his head on April 7, and thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge.
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, who is considering the case at private hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London, has been told the youngster has not regained consciousness.
A barrister leading the legal team representing the hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, told the judge on Thursday that Archie’s brain injuries are “devastating” and said a “final hearing” should be staged soon.
“The trust remains concerned by the inherently unstable nature of Archie’s condition, by virtue of his injuries, which could lead to his rapid deterioration with little or no warning,” said Fiona Paterson, in a written case outline.
“The issue with which the court is seized is whether it is in Archie’s best interests to continue to mechanically ventilate him.
“The trust submits that, very sadly, all of the evidence… indicates that it is probable that Archie will never regain consciousness (or awareness) nor will he breathe independently again.”
Mrs Justice Arbuthnot last week gave doctors the go-ahead to carry out a brain-stem test in an attempt to establish whether Archie is dead.
Ms Paterson said the two specialists had planned to carry out that test on Monday, but decided not to proceed after first conducting a “peripheral nerve stimulation test” in which no response was detected.
“Regardless of whether a patient is brain-stem dead or brain-stem alive, the test should produce responses in the form of small twitches in specified muscles,” she said.
“Unfortunately, when the peripheral nerve stimulation test was attempted on Archie, no response was detected.
“Both doctors concluded that they could not proceed with the brain-stem assessment as it appeared that no response would be elicited from Archie during the brain-stem testing regardless of whether his brain stem was functioning or not.”