The Christian Institute: Archie Battersbee

Published August 12, 2022 

The Christian Institute has not been involved in the tragic case of Archie Battersbee. We can only reflect on what is in the court judgments, media coverage and other comment in the public domain.

Archie was found unconscious and not breathing by his mother on 7 April 2022. He was rushed to hospital, where he received further medical attention, but never regained consciousness. After a legal battle, in which Archie’s family were supported by the Christian Legal Centre, his life support was removed on 6 August.

First and foremost, we extend our sympathy to Archie’s family. They have been through a harrowing ordeal, and we pray that they will know God to be the Father of compassion and God of all comfort.

The case was highly complex. There were numerous court hearings over several months, and reams of medical evidence. One thing was clear: trust between the family and key medical staff sadly broke down.

Brain stem death

The first phase of court proceedings was around whether or not Archie was dead. The definition of death normally used in such cases is ‘brain stem death’. Some, including some Christians, reject this definition. There is an established process for diagnosing it, with a specific test including a series of different assessments. In this case, Archie’s condition meant the test could not be carried out.

Wrongly, the hospital still asked the High Court to decide, without this standard test, that Archie was dead (‘on the balance of probabilities’). Wrongly, the court did so. But this was, thankfully, overturned by the Court of Appeal.

A judge is in no position to diagnose brain death when medical professionals have been either unable or unwilling to do so. This would have been a dangerous extension of the definition of death, and we can all be thankful that it was stopped.


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