Archbishop Paglia on Archie's death: ‘Humanity defeated when life decided by a court’
By Devin Watkins
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, took to Twitter on Saturday to express his sorrow for the death of Archie Battersbee.
What happened to Archie?
The 12-year-old boy from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, in southeast England, died earlier on Saturday after doctors removed his life-sustaining treatment following a High Court decision.
Archie’s parents—Paul Battersbee and Hollie Dance—had fought a drawn-out court battle with his doctors to keep him on life support.
Archie had been in hospital since 7 April when his mother found him lying unconscious at their Essex home after an incident suspected to be part of an online challenge.
He was transferred from Southend to The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel the next day.
How did the court case unfold?
Doctors concluded that he was “brain-stem dead”—when a person fails to respond to outside stimulation and will likely never regain consciousness or be able to breathe without support, according to the UK National Health Service.
On 13 June, a High Court judge ruled that Archie was “dead” and said that his life support could be withdrawn.
His parents tried to appeal the decision but three justices at the Court of Appeal rejected their plea. On 28 July, the Supreme Court ruled out intervening in the case, and upheld the Court of Appeal decision.
Archie’s parents also asked the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights to intervene but without success.
His life support was withdrawn around 10 AM on Saturday, and he died a couple hours later at 12:15 PM, according to Archie’s mother.
“I’m the proudest mum in the world,'' Ms. Dance told reporters outside the hospital. “Such a beautiful little boy, and he fought right until the very end.”
What do the English Bishops say?
Archbishop Paglia’s tweet was sent a few hours after his death and just one day after a UK Bishop released a statement expressing support for Archie and his parents.
Bishops John Sherrington, the Lead Bishop for Life Issues for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, called for Archie’s “inherent dignity as a person created in the image and likeness of God” to be recognized in the final moments of his life.
“The recently hard-fought arguments in the courts about Archie’s ongoing treatment and care highlight again the need to find better ways of mediation by which parents and health care professionals can reach common agreements and avoid complex legal proceedings,” he wrote.
What is ‘ordinary treatment and care’?
Bishop Sherrington, an auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, also pointed to Church teaching regarding end-of-life care.
“Whilst the Catholic Church recognises that there are situations when medical treatment to sustain life is no longer obligatory if there is no hope of recovery,” he noted, “ordinary treatment and care should be provided appropriate to the condition of the patient.”
In 2007, the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a statement approved by Pope Benedict XVI affirming that the “administration of food and water even if by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life.”