The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

U.K. parents lose battle to continue life support for 12-year-old in coma

Hollie Dance, the mother of Archie Battersbee, left, leaves court July 25 in London. (Dominic Lipinski/AP)

The parents of a 12-year-old British boy left in a coma after suffering a “catastrophic” brain injury three months ago have lost a court appeal to stop doctors from ending his life-support treatment.

Archie Battersbee was found unconscious at his home on April 7 with a “ligature” around his neck, according to court documents. His mother, Hollie Dance, has said she thinks he suffocated while attempting a viral online fad known as the “Blackout Challenge.”

Mother sues TikTok after 10-year-old died trying ‘Blackout Challenge’

Doctors at the Royal London Hospital, where the boy is being treated, believe that he is brain dead and that his body will eventually collapse even if life support continues.

An attorney for the boy’s parents told the court that his mother had seen her son breathe independently of a ventilator on Friday and Saturday, the Guardian newspaper reported.

According to court documents, Dance also reported feeling Archie squeeze her hand on one occasion. Medical staff said they had not witnessed “any sign of spontaneous life in him,” even during painful procedures.

Speaking to reporters Monday outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London — where three Court of Appeal judges upheld an earlier court ruling that continuing life-support treatment was not in Archie’s best interests — Dance vowed not to give up the fight.

“The system shouldn’t be allowed to do this to people,” she said. “All I’ve asked for from day one is time. … That’s my little boy, and I’ll fight as long as I possibly can.”

A number of children have died doing the Blackout Challenge after seeing it on TikTok, according to a U.S. lawsuit filed in May by the mother of Nylah Anderson, a 10-year-old girl from Chester, Pa. Her mother found her hanging in her closet and near death in December. The girl — described by those who loved her as a precious, fun-loving “butterfly” — died at a hospital five days later.

Other deaths cited in the lawsuit include a 14-year-old Australian boy in April 2020, a 10-year-old Italian girl in January 2021, a 12-year-old Colorado boy in April of that year and a 12-year-old Oklahoma boy in July 2021.

A TikTok spokesperson told The Washington Post at the time that the “disturbing ‘challenge,’ which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend.”

Sir Andrew McFarlane, one of three judges in Monday’s U.K. court ruling, said Archie’s condition and the “awful predicament” he and his family are in had received widespread media attention, including a photograph taken before the incident.

However, the judge said Archie “is no longer the boy in the photograph.” He added that the 12-year-old is “someone whose every bodily function is now maintained by artificial means.”

The three Court of Appeal judges said they would delay ending Archie’s treatment for 48 hours — until 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday — to allow his parents to ask the European Court of Human Rights to consider the case.

The boy’s father, Paul Battersbee, was taken to a hospital before Monday’s hearing after suffering from a suspected heart attack.

Jonathan Edwards contributed to this report.