Archie Battersbee's family say 12-year-old's death was 'barbaric'

‘We hope no family has to go through what we have been through’: Archie Battersbee’s family say 12-year-old’s death was ‘barbaric’ as group calls for ‘urgent review and reform’ after schoolboy’s case

  • Archie died at 12:15pm after mechanical ventilation was stopped at the Royal London Hospital yesterday
  • Archie’s family ran out of legal options as they lost a bid to move him to a hospice to die peacefully
  • The Court of Appeal denied their application to appeal as the hospital said he was too ‘unstable’ to be moved
  • His mother Hollie Dance, 46, said: ‘I’m the proudest mum in the world… he fought right until the very end’ 
  • Mourners have been paying their respects by leaving flowers and lighting candles outside of the hospital

Archie Battersbee’s family has said that the 12-year-old’s death was ‘barbaric’ and they hope ‘no family has to go through what we have been through’.

The schoolboy passed away in hospital at 12.15pm yesterday surrounded by his family after his life-support treatment was withdrawn at 10am.

The fiancée of Archie’s eldest brother Tom, Ella Rose Carter, said: ‘There is absolutely nothing dignified about watching a family member or a child suffocate.

‘We hope no family has to go through what we have been through. It’s barbaric.’

It came as the Christian Legal Centre, a group that has been supporting Archie’s family, offered its condolences and called for an ‘urgent review and reform’.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘Our thoughts, prayers and support are with Archie’s family at this tragic moment.

‘We will continue to support the family, as we have done throughout, ever since they came to us after being issued with last-minute legal proceedings to remove life support from Archie.

‘We are thankful for the widespread public support for Archie and his family. It has been a privilege to stand alongside them.

‘The events of the last few weeks raise many significant issues including questions of how death is defined, how those decisions are made and the place of the family.

‘No-one wants to see other families experience what they have been through. We need to see urgent review and reform of the system.’

The family released a new photo of their beloved boy as part of their tribute, showing the youngster smiling while dressed in a smart grey suit and blue bow tie.

Well-wishers have been lighting candles and leaving flowers outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, where Archie was being treated.

Mother Hollie Dance and aunt Ella were among close relatives who told reporters he had died, Hollie said: ‘It is our deepest sadness to tell you all that Archie passed at 12.15 today. 

‘Can I just say that I’m the proudest mum in the world, such a beautiful little boy, and he fought right until the very end – and I am so proud to be his mum.’

All were visibly heartbroken, especially as Ms Carter described Archie’s final moments. She said: ‘He was taken off all medication at 10 o’clock. His entire stats remained completely stable for two hours until they reduced ventilation.

‘And then he went completely blue.’

The family comforted each other as they broke down in tears, before turning away and leaving the area. 

The 12-year-old had been in a coma since he was found unconscious by his mother on April 7 and was being kept alive by a combination of medical interventions, including ventilation and drug treatments, at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.

His family believe he may have been taking part in an online Tiktok challenge after he was found unconscious by his mother with a cord wrapped around his neck. 

Chief medical officer at Barts Health NHS Trust Alistair Chesser said: ‘Archie Battersbee passed away on Saturday afternoon at The Royal London Hospital after treatment was withdrawn in line with court rulings about his best interests. 

Archie Battersbee’s family released a new photo (pictured) of their beloved boy after his life support was withdrawn yesterday morning

Family members appeared outside the hospital after Archie had passed away – Hollie’s mother, second from left, and aunt, third from right, both broke down in tears as they spoke to reporters

Archie Battersbee, of Southend-On-Sea, Essex, suffered brain damage at his home on April 7. Medics say he was ‘brain dead’

A person lights candles outside the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, east London, following the death of 12 year old Archie Battersbee

Barts Health NHS Trust said it knows Archie’s story has touched people across the UK – and thanked intensive care and paediatric staff for their hard work during ‘trying and difficult’ times

Hollie Dance (second left) surrounded by family and friends, outside the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, east London

Archie’s father, Paul Battersbee, and mother, Hollie Dance, are no longer a couple – but both have fought hard to sustain Archie’s life-support treatment

‘Members of his family were present at the bedside and our thoughts and heartfelt condolences remain with them at this difficult time.

‘The trust would like to thank the medical, nursing and support staff in the paediatric intensive care department who looked after Archie following his awful accident. 

‘They provided high quality care with extraordinary compassion over several months in often trying and distressing circumstances. This tragic case not only affected the family and his carers but touched the hearts of many across the country.’

Archie’s mother, Hollie Dance, said last night she is ‘broken’, but has done everything she promised Archie she would do in her fight to give him more time.

In an emotional interview with Sky News, she said: ‘The last however many weeks since 7th April, I don’t think there’s been a day that hasn’t been awful really.

‘It’s been really hard. Despite the hard strong face and appearance obviously in front of the cameras up until now, I’ve been pretty broken.’

She said: ‘Archie really is the heart of our family, he is so loved. He leaves an impact wherever he goes. He’s a lovable little boy. Very bubbly – he’s just happy all of the time.’ 

After fighting to maintain life support treatment in the hope he would recover despite multiple experts testifying to the contrary, the family lost a last-ditch battle to move him to a hospice to die ‘peacefully’, after doctors said it was too risky.

His loved ones held on to the hope he would get better, but doctors warned in April he had little chance of recovery, before saying they believed him to be ‘brain stem dead’ – which is considered non-recoverable. Successive courts heard that all of Archie’s bodily functions were dependent on hospital machinery.

Floral and candle tributes were left outside the Royal London Hospital in dedication to Archie. Family friends and supporters of their campaign gathered in solidarity outside its entrance. 

Shelley Elias, 43, said she had come to the Royal London Hospital because she ‘wanted his mum Hollie and the family to know I was thinking of them’.

Mrs Elias, a mother of two from Stepney, east London, who said she vaguely knew Archie’s mother, brought flowers, a card and some candles.

She said: ‘I did not know what to write because there are no words that will take the pain away. I just wanted the mum and her family to know that I am here for them.

‘My boy is 12, the same age as Archie, and this just puts things in perspective. When things like this happen, you just think “I have nothing to moan about in life”.’

Candles flickered in the shape of the letter ‘A’ and also formed a love heart around a card with Archie’s name in a makeshift tribute at a statue in front of the hospital.

It was created by passers-by who said they wanted to show their support.

Archie’s case is just one of multiple recent tragedies where parents have fought against doctors’ decisions to stop providing life support to their children, after it has been decided it is no longer in their best interests.

Most agree such battles are extremely difficult for all concerned, and there are calls to review current legislation around state and parental rights in order to avoid children’s lives being fought over in similar incidents in the future.

Such cases are always fiercely contested, and the involvement of religious groups can make decisions all the more difficult for family and friends. 

Archie’s doctors argued in court that he was almost certainly ‘brain dead’ and further treatment was not in his best interests. They said Archie had suffered ‘irreversible cessation of brain stem function’ and had died at the end of May.

But his family disagreed: Hollie described Archie gripping her hand, opening his eyes and even crying. Doctors ran tests in the wake of this but found no improvement in Archie’s condition. 

Archie’s mother previously said: ‘I know I’ve done a very good job being Archie’s mum. Based on my own childhood I was determined to be as good as a mother as I can possibly be and I feel like I have done that to the very best of my ability. It’s one of the reasons I am here.’

She continued: ‘All I have ever asked is to get him to six months – where is the harm in that for them? They have spent a fortune on legal fees fighting me in court – money they could have spent on Archie’s care and others’.’

Archie was supported in hospital by soft toys, visits from friends and family and his mother, who stayed by his bedside for weeks at a time 

‘There has been a lot of focus on Archie’s dignity, and I passionately believe that the most dignified death for him would be away from the machines and noise of a hospital ward.’ 

‘At its heart this has been a case about a mother’s love, but also their rights. At what point did Archie’s dad and I lose our parental rights in terms of deciding what we want for our child?’

Close family friend and boxing coach Ollie Bessell shared news on social media that the process of withdrawing treatment had begun.

He said: ‘I have the heartbreaking responsibility to let all of our followers know that this morning, The Royal London Hospital began the removal of Archie’s life support system.

‘Talking from a personal point of view, this is a hard one to take. A few weeks ago, I was sat in a room with Archie and I felt the life in him. Although he was not in a good position, he was still very much there.’

Doctors treating the schoolboy for the last four months declared Archie to be ‘brain-stem dead’ in May, prompting a lengthy but ultimately failed legal battle by his family to continue his life support treatment in the hope he would recover. 

Barts Health NHS Trust had said previously that no changes will be made to Archie’s care ‘until the outstanding legal issues are resolved’. 

Archie’s parents applied to the Court of Appeal on Friday, after losing a High Court bid to have him moved to a hospice before his life-sustaining treatment is withdrawn.

The Court of Appeal confirmed that permission to appeal had been refused.

In a ruling at the High Court on Friday morning (August 5) Mrs Justice Theis concluded it was not in Archie’s best interests to be moved from Royal London Hospital, as it could hasten his deterioration. 

In the same case, she ruled that the supply of palliative oxygen, which is used to boost oxygen levels in breathless patients, ‘should be left to the clinical team on the ground.’ It is unknown at this stage whether Archie received oxygen after ventilation had been reduced.

She added: ‘Sadly, the evidence points to it being unlikely he will breathe once treatment is withdrawn due his severely compromised medical position and the extent of his injuries.’

His mother Hollie Dance (pictured) said she wanted her son to ‘spend his last moments’ together with family privately, complaining of a lack of privacy at the hospital

Ollie Bessell, a family friend and boxing coach, told followers on social media this morning that the process of withdrawing Archie’s life support has begun – but later deleted the post

Archie’s mother, Hollie Dance, said last night she is ‘broken’, but has done everything she promised Archie she would do in her fight to give him more time

After the update from the Court of Appeal on being moved to a hospice, campaign group Christian Concern – which is supporting the family – said Archie’s legal team applied to the European court again. 

They challenged the High Court ruling made on Friday morning, arguing that there has been a violation of articles six and eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, the group said. 

Article six is the right to a fair trial and article eight is the right to respect for private and family life. But the court declined to become involved in the case after the UK Court of Appeal’s judgement. 

A shattering time for Archie’s family… as the legal fight reached its final hours

April 7 – Archie is found unconscious by his mother, Hollie Dance, at her home in Southend, Essex. He has a ligature around his neck, prompting her to believe he was taking part in an online challenge gone wrong. The boy is taken to hospital with traumatic head injuries.

April 26 – Barts Health NHS Trust, responsible for Archie’s care at the Royal London Hospital, begins High Court proceedings seeking to undertake a test of the brain stem – which is responsible for keeping people alive – and to withdraw mechanical ventilation.

Doctors think it ‘highly likely’ that the youngster is effectively dead, and say it is in his best interests that life-support treatment should stop. Archie’s parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, raise concerns.

May 13 – High Court Judge Mrs Justice Arbuthnot rules that a brain stem test would be in Archie’s best interests.

May 16 – Two specialists attempt a nerve stimulation test on Archie, but no response is detected.

June 6-8 Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, sitting in the Family Division of the High Court, oversees three days of evidence and argument relating to Archie’s treatment. Doctors think it is ‘very likely’ he is ‘brain-stem dead’. Lawyers representing Archie’s family say his heart is still beating and want care to continue. 

June 13 –  Mrs Justice Arbuthnot rules that Archie is dead and says doctors can lawfully stop treating him. Archie’s family say they plan to appeal.

June 20 – Ms Dance and Mr Battersbee are granted permission to appeal against the decision.

June 29 – At the subsequent hearing, three appeal judges rule that evidence relating to what is in Archie’s best interests should be reconsidered by a different High Court judge. Archie’s parents say they are ‘delighted’ at the decision.

July 11 – High Court judge Mr Justice Hayden hears evidence from doctors that continuing to treat Archie will only ‘delay the inevitable’. But the boy’s mother says her son is a ‘natural-born fighter’ and urges doctors to continue care.

July 15 – Mr Justice Hayden rules in favour of the hospital trust, saying the medical evidence is ‘compelling and unanimous’ and paints a ‘bleak’ picture. He adds: ‘There can be no hope at all of recovery.’ Archie’s parents say they will ask Court of Appeal judges to overturn Mr Justice Hayden’s decision. 

July 21-22 – Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the Family Division of the High Court and the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Peter Jackson are told during a two-day hearing that medical evidence shows Archie is in a ‘comatose state’. 

July 25 – The three Court of Appeal judges rule that doctors can lawfully stop providing life-support treatment to Archie. Again, the family announce plans to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

July 28 – Archie’s family fail to persuade the Supreme Court to intervene in the case. 

July 29 – Undeterred, the family make a ‘last-ditch’ application to a UN committee to step in.

July 31 – The hospital caring for Archie says his treatment is due to be withdrawn on August 1 at 2pm. However, it is confirmed that the Court of Appeal has granted a virtual hearing for 11am on August 1 after the UK Government asked it to ‘urgently consider’ a request from the UN committee to continue his treatment so the committee could examine his case.

August 1 – The Court of Appeal rejects a request to postpone stopping Archie’s treatment. It says his life-support care will end at midday the following day.

August 2 – Archie’s parents are refused permission to appeal against the latest ruling at the Supreme Court. Ms Dance says Barts Health NHS Trust will begin to withdraw Archie’s life support on August 3 at 11am unless the family have submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights by 9am that day. The trust will not begin removing life-support until all legal issues have been resolved. 

August 3 – The European Court of Human Rights refuses the last-ditch application. Archie’s family say they intend to ask the High Court to allow the schoolboy to be moved to a hospice.

August 4 – Nearly four months after Archie suffered traumatic head injuries, his parents formally lodge High Court proceedings over the move to hospice care – something the hospital opposes. Archie’s care continues. A hearing takes place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, lasting late into the evening.

August 5 – Mrs Justice Theis rules it is not in Archie’s best interests to be moved to a hospice. The High Court judge refuses the family permission to appeal against her ruling, granting a stay on the withdrawal of Archie’s treatment until 2pm on Friday to allow them to go directly to the Court of Appeal.

Refusing permission to appeal, the Court of Appeal judges say Mrs Justice Theis’ ruling dealt ‘comprehensively with each of the points raised on behalf of the parents’ and said the proposed appeal had ‘no prospect of success’.

A bid to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing the High Court ruling violated the European Convention on Human Rights, also fails.

Archie’s family is told his life support will be withdrawn at 10am on Saturday, campaign group Christian Concern says. 

August 6 – Archie’s mother Ms Dance tells reporters outside the hospital that her son died at 12.15pm on Saturday, after life support treatment began to be removed at 10am.

She said she was ‘the proudest mum in the world’, adding: ‘He was such a beautiful little boy and he fought right until the very end, and I am so proud to be his mum.’ 

The family had sought permission in the UK to challenge Mrs Justice Theis’s ruling but the Court of Appeal judges considering the application concluded the High Court judge had dealt ‘comprehensively with each of the points raised on behalf of the parents’. 

The Court of Appeal judges said they had ‘reached the clear conclusion that each of her decisions was right for the reasons she gave’. 

They added: ‘It follows that the proposed appeal has no prospect of success and there is no other compelling reason for the Court of Appeal to hear an appeal.’ 

The Court of Appeal judges also said one of the arguments presented by Archie’s parents was ‘flawed legally’, adding: ‘It is also not easy to understand as it seeks to argue that Archie’s best interests have ceased to be relevant.’ 

Hollie and Paul, Archie’s father, described the pressure of the legal battle as ‘immense’.

Hollie added: ‘Time after time we have been told at the last minute that we have until 9am the following day to sort our submissions. It has been very difficult. 

‘All the way through I haven’t had a chance to process everything that has happened. 

‘All I have known is that I can’t let my guard down and break down emotionally because the second I do that I won’t have the strength to fight for my little boy.’

Hollie vowed to give her dying son mouth-to-mouth if doctors deny him oxygen after withdrawing life support.

She said: ‘All our wishes as a family have been denied by the authorities. We are broken, but we are keeping going, because we love Archie and refuse to give up on him.’ 

His doctors said Archie’s condition is too unstable for a transfer and that moving him by ambulance to a different setting ‘would most likely hasten the premature deterioration the family wish to avoid, even with full intensive care equipment and staff on the journey’.  

Mrs Justice Theis agreed with medics on Friday and said: ‘He should remain at the hospital… I hope now Archie can be afforded the opportunity to die in peaceful circumstances, with the family who meant so much to him, as he clearly does to them.’ 

In her ruling, the judge also refused the parents’ application for a new expert to give an assessment of the risks of transfer to a hospice, adding that she understood ‘the enormity of what lays ahead for Archie’s parents and the family’ and that ‘their unconditional love and dedication to Archie is a golden thread that runs through this case’.

Archie’s loved ones had pledged to ‘fight to the end’ with their last-minute bid to have him transferred to die in a hospice ‘with dignity’ – with one centre already prepared to take in the boy if it is granted permission to do so, according to a family spokesperson. 

But they have now reached the end of the line after the Court of Appeal refused to hear an appeal against Friday’s hospice ruling.

Ms Dance said she wanted her son to ‘spend his last moments’ together with family privately, complaining of a lack of privacy at the hospital. 

She told Times Radio on Thursday: ‘We can’t even have the chance to be in a room together as a family without nurses.’ 

She added: ‘There’s absolutely no privacy, which is why, again, the courts keep going on about this dignified death – why aren’t we allowed to take our child to a hospice and spend his last moments, his last days together privately? 

‘Why is the hospital obstructing it?’ 

A High Court order made in July requires that Archie remains at the Royal London Hospital while his treatment is withdrawn, a ruling which was ultimately upheld yesterday.

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.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital where Archie resides, had told his devastated family members it would remove mechanical intervention at 11am on Thursday after the European Court of Human Rights refused an 11th-hour application to continue treatment the night before.

Doctors have been given permission to turn off Archie’s life support machine, but his parents have been fighting to keep him alive. Pictured is Archie in hospital

The Strasbourg court said the appeal was ‘inadmissible’, adding that it would grant such requests only ‘on an exceptional basis’ when ‘the applicants would otherwise face a real risk of irreversible harm’. 

In the aftermath Ms Dance admitted a ‘dignified passing at a hospice’ was all she had left to fight for, but the hospital trust said it would fight to stop him leaving the hospital as his condition is too unstable to be moved.

The NHS trust gave Archie’s family a 9am deadline to appeal, and the case returned to the High Court one last time yesterday afternoon in front of Mrs Justice Theis.

Asked what the last ditch attempt was going to be like, Ms Dance grew tearful and said: ‘It’s going be awful today.

‘I woke up absolutely sick to my stomach. Like I just feel this hospital have so much to answer for and I don’t really know what else to say today.’

In a statement Ms Dance said: ‘If Archie is denied oxygen if and when life-support is removed I will continue to give him oxygen.

‘I pray that the High Court will do the right thing. If they refuse permission for us to take him to a hospice and for him to receive palliative oxygen it will simply be inhumane and nothing about Archie’s ‘dignity’.

‘The whole system has been stacked against us.

‘Reform must now come through Charlie’s Law so that no parents have to go through this. We will fight to the end for Archie’s right to live.’

Archie Battersbee’s heartbroken mother Hollie Dance outside the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, east London. The family are now fighting to move him to a hospice

Archie has not regained consciousness after he was found unresponsive with a ligature around his neck at his home

Hollie Dance, mother of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee, with an unidentified man, speaks to the media outside the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, east London, after the European Court of Human Rights refused an application to postpone the withdrawal of his life support

The defiant words came after she appeared outside hospital Wednesday night and described the rejection of her bid to postpone the withdrawal of her son’s life support as ‘another heart-breaking development’ after European judges rejected her last-minute bid to intervene and save her son’s life.

‘It’s the end,’ she told reporters. Fighting back tears, she said: ‘It was the last thing, wasn’t it? And again our country have failed a 12-year-old child.

Attorney General Suella Braverman backs ‘thorough’ judges who have backed Archie’s doctors over his family

Attorney General Suella Braverman said the Archie Battersbee case was an ‘incredibly heartbreaking situation’ but insisted parents had sufficient legal rights and the courts would have looked at the issues ‘incredibly thoroughly’.

She told Sky News: ‘I must just put on record my deepest sympathies for the family of Archie Battersbee, I cannot begin to imagine what he and his family have been going through.’

She added: ‘I think generally, yes, parents do have sufficient rights. The legal presumption is that parents are acting in the best interest of their children until or unless proved otherwise.’

But ‘in highly complex – both legally and morally – issues like these ones’ there were competing factors such as medical opinion.

‘That has to be weighed against the parents wishes as well, and many other factors in in these cases.

‘These are not straightforward. They’re highly, highly complex matters involving detailed issues of medicine, and medical ethics, as well as the child’s welfare.

‘And I have confidence that our courts and our judges will have looked at these issues incredibly thoroughly, incredibly sensitively, and have reached the right decision.’

‘I would like him out of here as quick as possible, and in a peaceful hospice to say goodbye and spend time with his family, uninterrupted by the noise and chaos’. 

A spokeswoman for the family added: ‘We think it is completely barbaric and absolutely disgusting that we’re not even allowed to choose where Archie takes his last moments.

‘Hospices are well and truly designed for palliative and respite care. Archie is now obviously on palliative care so there is no reason whatsoever for him not to take his last moments at a hospice. The hospice has said that they will take him.’

Ms Dance previously accused the UK of treating her son’s injury as ‘black and white’ and alleged that the wrong MRI scan may have been submitted to the courts during proceedings.

Speaking to Times Radio, Archie’s mother said: ‘Although Archie’s got 10% necrosis of the brain stem, it’s 5% of the overall brain and although the necrosis is not reversible, the 5% damage to the whole brain is reversible.

‘It’s going to come out in the future, and obviously we haven’t had a chance to put none of this forward in the court because we’ve been blocked from speaking.

‘But there’s strong, strong doubts that the MRI imaging that was put across into the court was actually Archie’s MRI. The MRI that was put forward had nine bottom teeth – Archie’s got 12. So there’s lots of things that the court hasn’t had the chance to look at because we haven’t been allowed to put any.’ 

This was a claim the NHS trust denied, saying all scans had been immediately marked with Archie’s name and NHS number after they had been completed.

Alistair Chesser – the Chief Medical Officer for Barts Health NHS Trust – previously told MailOnline they will ‘work with the family to prepare the withdrawal of Archie’s treatment’. 

Mr Chesser said: ‘Our deepest sympathies remain with Archie’s family and we aim to provide the best possible support to everyone at this difficult time. 

‘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.’ 

Is brain stem death the same as being in a vegetative state? And what are the chances of recovery?

Archie’s doctors insist he is ‘brain dead’. This is different to a ‘vegetative state’ which happens after extensive brain damage, like that suffered by F1 racing legend Michael Schumacher in a catastrophic skiing accident in 2013. It is permanent, meaning the affected person will never regain consciousness or start breathing on their own again. They are legally confirmed as dead, with the time on their death certificate logged when they fail a catalogue of tests.

The NHS says it can be ‘confusing’ because brain dead people can still have a beating heart and their chest will ‘rise and fall with every breath’. However, this is solely down to life support machines — not because the person has miraculously regained the ability to do this themselves.

Occasionally, the limbs and torso can move. But this is simply down to reflexes triggered by nerves in the spine that are not linked with the brain. It does not indicate that the brain is still working. Whereas, it is scientifically possible for someone in a vegetative state to recover. This is because their brain stem, which controls breathing and heartbeat, still functions, meaning they may show signs of being awake — such as being able to open their eyes.

One year after going into a vegetative state, around 43 per cent will regain consciousness, 34 per cent die and 23 per cent are still vegetative. However, those who wake up are often minimally conscious, unable to communicate and have to be fed through a tube. Dozens of people claim to have beaten brain death in the past. Zack Dunlap, a 21-year-old from Oklahoma, told of how he heard doctors tell his family he was brain dead following a scan. But his arm moved while he was being prepared for organ donation. He later woke up, recovered and went home seven weeks later.

But the Neurocritical Care Society, a network of more than 2,000 healthcare workers, says it is impossible. Writing in an FAQ page, it said: ‘If anyone claims to have recovered from brain death, then the diagnosis was incorrect.’

The brain stem is located at the bottom of the brain and controls consciousness, awareness, breathing and the ability to regulate heart and blood pressure. If damaged – through trauma in Archie’s case, or through bleeding, infections or tumours – it swells up but has no room to expand because it is encased inside the skull. This causes pressure to build up, leading to a drop in blood flow to the brain and damage to tissue. This pressure and swelling pushes the brain through a small opening at the base of the skull, which can not always be stopped or reversed.

When the brain stem stops working, it cannot send messages to the body to control any functions and cannot receive messages back from the body. This damage is irreversible. Six tests need to be met before a person can be declared as a brain stem death. These include the pupils not responding to light, having no cough or gag reflex and being unresponsive to pain. 

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