Ministers have asked the high court to “urgently consider” a request by the UN to stop life-support treatment being ended for 12-year-old Archie Battersbee.
The letter, seen by PA Media, is from the government’s legal department and written on behalf of Steve Barclay, the health secretary. It states that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities has asked the UK government to refrain from withdrawing treatment until the case has been considered by the committee.
“In the circumstances, we wish to draw the [UN] committee’s request for interim measures to the court’s attention for its urgent consideration,” the letter said. It also requested the letter be “placed before the out-of-hours judge immediately” or before Mr Justice Hayden, who has previously considered the case.
An earlier letter from the committee to Archie’s family said it had requested the government “refrain from withdrawing life-preserving medical treatment, including mechanical ventilation and artificial nutrition and hydration, from the alleged victim while the case is under consideration by the committee”.
Archie is being cared for by the Barts Health NHS Trust, which itself sent a letter to his parents, Hollie Dance and Paul Battersbee, over the weekend that “all fluid infusions, medications, including vasopressin will be stopped” at 2pm on 1 August.
The child has been in hospital since April after Dance found her son with a ligature over his head. Doctors treating him at the Royal London Hospital in east London think he is brain-stem dead and say continued life-support treatment is not in his best interests.
However his family have made legal challenges to keep Archie’s ventilator – a machine that helps move air in and out of the lungs – turned on and treatment continued.
His mother had pleaded with Barclay to “act immediately” to stop the treatment ending, saying it would be “a flagrant breach” of the boy’s rights and has also urged the UN to intervene.
The letter from Barts trust said: “We understand that any discussions around the withdrawal of Archie’s treatment are very difficult and painful. However, we want to ensure that you and your family are involved as much as you wish to be.”
A high court judge had ruled that ending treatment is in Archie’s best interests, after reviewing evidence. Writing to Barclay on Saturday, Dance said: “If this happens, this will be an extraordinary cruelty, and a flagrant breach of Archie’s rights as a disabled person.
“Archie is entitled to have the decisions about his life and death, taken by the NHS and UK courts, to be scrutinised by an international human rights body. Hastening his death to prevent that would be completely unacceptable.”
Alistair Chesser, chief medical officer for Barts health NHS trust, said on Friday that “further delay” in starting to provide “palliative care” to Archie would “not be appropriate” without a court order.
In response the family accused Chesser of making “misleading” assertions.