The government intervened at the last minute in the case of a 12-year-old boy in a coma who was due to have his life-saving treatment withdrawn, according to a letter seen by the PA news agency.
Archie Battersbee is due to have his treatment at the Royal London Hospital in east London end at 2pm on Monday, but the government’s legal department has asked the High Court to ‘urgent consideration’ of a UN request for prevent this.
The department said it received a request from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on Friday asking for time to review Archie’s case following a request from the family.
Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, had also sent a letter to the family over the weekend telling them treatment would end at 2pm on August 1.
The government’s letter, written on behalf of the Health Secretary, reads: “In these circumstances, we wish to draw the Court’s attention to the (UN) Committee’s request for interim measures for she examines it urgently.
“As the Family Division is seized of this matter and the Trust is acting pursuant to the Court’s order, we ask that this letter be immediately filed with the Business Hours Judge and/or, if possible, with Mr. Justice Hayden.
It comes after Archie’s mother, Hollie Dance, urged the Health Secretary to ‘act immediately’ to prevent the end of treatment, saying it would be ‘a gross breach’ of his rights.
The family said stopping the treatment would breach the UK’s obligations under international human rights law.
Archie’s parents have asked hospital bosses to continue treatment until the UN reviews the case.
A High Court judge previously ruled that ending treatment was in Archie’s best interests, after reviewing the evidence.
Following the government’s letter, Ms Dance said: “We are relieved that the government has taken the UN intervention seriously. It was not a “request” but an injunction for interim measures from the UN.
“The anxiety of learning that Archie’s life support will be taken down tomorrow at 2pm has been horrendous. We are already broken and not knowing what was going to happen next is excruciating.
Archie’s parents are supported by the campaign organisation, the Christian Legal Centre.
Ms Dance and Paul Battersbee, who are estranged but both live in Southend, Essex, failed to persuade Court of Appeal judges to overturn the decision and Supreme Court judges refused to to intervene.
Barts’ letter to the family read: ‘We understand that any discussion around Archie’s treatment withdrawal is very difficult and painful.
“However, we want to make sure you and your family are involved as much as you want.”
Ms Dance and Mr Battersbee will be advised on Monday morning how the removal process is to be carried out, in an effort to ‘preserve Archie’s dignity’, the letter read.
He continued, “You or one of the family members may wish to lie on Archie’s bed with him or have him in your arms, if that should be practically possible.”
Writing to Health Secretary Stephen Barclay on Saturday, Ms Dance said: ‘If this happens it will be extraordinary cruelty and a gross violation of Archie’s rights as a disabled person.
“Archie has the right to have the decisions about his life and death taken by the NHS and UK courts reviewed by an international human rights body. Hastening his death to prevent this would be totally unacceptable.
“I am confident that you will now act immediately, as a member of responsible government in the NHS, to ensure that this does not happen and that our country honors its obligations under the international human rights treaties that we have signed and ratified.”
London judges heard Ms Dance found Archie unconscious with a ligature over his head on April 7.
She thinks he may have participated in an online challenge.
The young man did not regain consciousness.
Doctors treating Archie believe he is brainstem dead and say continuing life-sustaining treatment is not in his best interests.
Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer at Barts Health NHS Trust, said on Friday that a “further delay” in starting to provide “palliative care” to Archie would be “not appropriate” without a court order.
In response, the family accused Mr Chesser of making “misleading” claims.
Barts Health NHS Trust has been contacted for comment, as has the Courts Press Office.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We recognize that this is an exceptionally difficult time for Archie Battersbee’s family and our thoughts are with them.
“The government has asked the High Court to give urgent consideration to the request from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”