Archie Battersbee 1

The invention of ‘brain death’, a breakdown in trust, the child’s best interests, and how to turn off life support

Twelve-year-old Archie Battersbee died on 7 August, after months of legal wrangling between doctors who believed he was brain dead and wished to end life support, and his family who resisted this. This tragic case has captured a lot of media attention, and in this episode we try to unpick some of the complicated medical and ethical challenges thrown up by the story. Why is it so much harder today than in the past to actually determine if a person has died? How can, and should, the courts overrule the wishes of a child’s parents regarding medical treatment (or its withdrawal)? And can Christians be pro-life and anti-euthanasia, while still supporting the doctors’ wish to allow Archie to die?

Find other episodes of Matters of Life and Death or subscribe to receive new episodes sent straight to your device

2 comments on “Archie Battersbee 1

  1. Thank you for such an informed discussion! Whilst having only the media reports to go on, it’s been so difficult to understand the true detailed facts and issues of this sad case.
    Also so reassuring to be reminded of God’s perspective on all this.

  2. Eric Quek

    There are a few points I like to add to this unfortunate discussion. The Most Important question for all involved is about :** Quality of Life. If sanctity of life means medicine is obligated to keep everyone alive AT ALL COST and at ALL TIMES, this would be a Unsurmountable task from theological view because this would mean life on earth is the highest GOAL to achieve. Second, some families believe that miracles can occur. It is true that miracles do happen in medicine, though rare, it seems more realistic to acknowledge the failure to “let go.” of the dying family. We know that different organs die at different times. Back to key question–quality of life—-.Treatment is FUTILE if they will not restore the patient to an acceptable quality of life. In my discussion I am assuming that this unfortunate incident has also lost brain stem activity. This is important also to consider because case like Terri Schiavo lost all higher brain function but retain brain stem which will allow her to live on for the “rest of her adult life” if given food and water.

Leave a reply or comment