Statement on Archie Battersbee and his life-support treatment

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The High Court has given permission for Archie Battersbee’s parents to appeal against the decision to allow life support treatment to end. Last week, a High Court judge ruled that Archie was “brain stem dead” and treatment could stop. However, following another hearing the same judge gave permission for Archie’s parents to take their case to the Court of Appeal.

Bishop John Sherrington said:

The sad case of Archie Battersbee’s condition is very distressing. 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. 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. 

Bishop John Sherrington
Lead Bishop for Life Issues
Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster