Tragic Archie Battersbee case echoes heartbreaking struggle other families have faced

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The tragic death of Archie Battersbee is the latest in a series of cases that pit devastated parents against Britain’s courts and healthcare system.

The 12-year-old is now on a heartbreaking list that includes Charlie Gard, Alta Fixsler and Alfie Evans: youths whose livelihoods were eventually withdrawn despite the pleas of their families.

Behind each was the same painful—perhaps unanswerable—question: what is life and who should decide when it’s over?

Alfie Evans was just 23 months old when he died in 2018 after doctors in Liverpool stopped his treatment.

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He had been in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for over a year after having seizures. Doctors diagnosed a degenerative neurological condition — though they’ve never been able to definitively identify it — and he was placed on a ventilator.

His parents Tom Evans and Kate James from Bootle, Merseyside, wanted to fly him to Rome for specialist treatment but this was stopped by Alder Hey with medics saying the treatment would not work and “wasn’t in Alfie’s best interest”.

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At a Supreme Court hearing, the hospital presented scans that showed “catastrophic degradation of his brain tissue” and claimed further treatment was not only “pointless” but also “unkind and inhumane”. They said he should be allowed to die.

An exhaustive legal process followed, with the case also appearing before the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Pope Francis intervened at one point, saying that Alfie should be allowed to travel to Italy. Supporters – calling themselves Alfie’s Army – began to gather at the hospital every day.

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Nevertheless, the young person’s life support was eventually withdrawn and he passed away on April 28, 2018. His parents continued to insist that the wrong decision had been made.

Alfie Evans died at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital five days after life support was turned off

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The case matched that of Charlie Gard who had died less than a year earlier in July 2017, just a week before his first birthday.

He was born with a rare form of mitochondrial disease and spent most of his life at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

By the time he died, he couldn’t open his eyes or move his limbs, and couldn’t breathe without a ventilator.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, of West London, fought a five-month legal battle to bring him to the US for experimental treatment, with his case receiving sympathy from then-President Donald Trump. About £1.3 million was raised to fund the proceedings, while a petition demanding that the family be allowed to cross the Atlantic was signed by 350,000 people.

However, doctors were convinced that the treatment would not work and said the baby should die in peace in the UK.

At the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights, the judges agreed with the medics. He was eventually transferred to a hospice where his livelihood was withdrawn.

Charlie Gard’s Parents Fought a Failed Battle to Bring Him to the U.S. for Treatment

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Yet families sometimes win these battles.

The family of severely disabled Tafida Raqeeb won a landmark case in 2019 that allowed them to take her to Italy for treatment after doctors said her life support should be withdrawn.

The girl, then five months old, had been placed on a ventilator after a traumatic brain injury in which doctors at the Royal London Hospital had applied to withdraw support.

But mother Shelina Begum and father Mohammed Raqeeb won the ensuing Supreme Court legal battle and were allowed to fly to Genoa in October of that year.

Tafida Raqeeb still lives in an Italian hospital, nearly three years after her parents won a battle to take her abroad

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Today, Tafida remains alive in hospital in Italy.

In March, Ms Begum said: “The child they said would die in two weeks is still alive. I let it go, my anger is gone, but she is living proof that they were wrong and that she was right.”

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