The Lead Bishop for Life Issues in England & Wales has called on doctors to continue life-sustaining treatment on 12 year old Archie Battersbee until there is “clear agreement” that he has died.
Archie was found unconscious at the family home in Southend, Essex, on 7th April 7 this year. He has not woken since, and doctors say he should be removed from life support after suffering “brain stem death”.
A High Court judge last week ruled Archie is legally dead and stands no chance of making a full recovery. Mrs Justice Arbuthnot said doctors could begin to withdraw life support.
However, following another hearing the same judge gave permission for Archie’s parents to take their case to the Court of Appeal, and the High Court has given permission for them to appeal against the decision to allow life support treatment to end.
In a written statement released today, Bishop John Sherrington, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster has called for treatment to continue until it can be established definitively that Archie is dead.
The bishop described case of Archie’s condition as “very distressing”, but said that “the Catholic Church requires moral certainty before it recognises death”.
“Pope John Paul II made clear that, in principle, death can be established with moral certainty by neurological criteria. However, to date, in Archie’s case it has not been established by standard criteria that he has died nor that his brain-stem has died,” said Bishop Sherrington.
“Admittedly in his condition these criteria for death are difficult to use and carry risks, but one cannot judge life and death matters on probabilities saying that it is ‘likely or very likely’ that he has died.
“We note that the judge has allowed Archie’s parents to appeal to the Court of Appeal. We seek and pray that he will continue to be treated with full dignity in his disabled condition with continuation of his life-sustaining treatment in accord with his parent’s wishes until there is a clear agreement that his death has occurred.”
Story: joseph Kelly: www.thecatholicnetwork.co.uk
Pic: Marcin Mazur
Catholic Bishops of England & Wales: www.cbcew.org.uk