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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK

Archie Battersbee case shows the heartbreaking reality of life and death decisions

Hollie Dance (left) with Ella Carter outside the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, east London
‘Hearing the news that a loved one can no longer be kept alive is often confusing. Losing hope is unbearable.’ Photograph: PA

Rachel Clarke’s excellent article about the Archie Battersbee case was a poignant and level-headed approach to what was a dreadfully difficult time for everyone involved (What can we learn from the awful tragedy of Archie Battersbee’s death?, 7 August). Hearing the news that a loved one can no longer be kept alive is often confusing. Losing hope is unbearable. I held my brother’s hand for more than six hours when his life support was withdrawn, having been confident that he would recover. As difficult as this was, I believed that the doctors had done everything they could.

Whatever the motives of the media or any well-meaning support groups, it is important that we keep this fundamental fact in our minds: doctors save lives; they do not want to give up.

I have nothing but sympathy for Archie’s family and friends. I do believe, though, that there is a time to consider where all the understandable ire should be directed. A good place to start is with the feeble laws and lack of control that allow online platforms to provoke a child to take actions that risk their lives in the name of “games”.
Philip Hilton
Coulonges, France

• Rachel Clarke’s comment about “some of the florid and sensationalist coverage of the case” highlights the fact that the publicity was particularly painful to the many parents who, like me, have lost a child, at whatever age. The grief lives with one for ever; it finds a home in due course in a quiet part of one’s psyche, but is made raw again by the kind of publicity that this sad event has engendered. What newly bereaved parents need is professional help with coming to terms with their dreadful loss, not encouragement by the media to rage against it in public and to vilify the medical profession.
Gillian Morriss-Kay

• We were blessed – our six-year-old daughter Imogen was allowed to spend her final hours at home with us and the palliative care nurse, who was a dear friend of ours. The last scan in hospital showed that her brain stem had “shrivelled up” so we knew there was no hope, but we wanted her to come home after weeks in hospital to be with her siblings. At some point in the night, our friend said to us: “It’s only the oxygen which is keeping Imogen breathing – I think we should withdraw it now.” And we agreed. It was harrowing, but what else could we do in our daughter’s best interests?

I feel for the parents who for whatever reason can’t make that emotional leap. I’m heartbroken for Archie’s parents not to have been given better information about his hope of life.
Alison McKendrick
Cookham, Berkshire

• I was with both my father and, nearly 50 years later, my son when the machines giving them artificial life support were turned off. At the time, I would have given anything for each of them to be kept alive, under any circumstances, but the doctors in both cases were firm. After my son’s death, I met a woman whose son had lived for three years on artificial life support, and I realised that was more traumatic than what I or my son had endured.

Also, the decision to turn off the machines made it possible for my son’s organs to be donated, and in his death he helped many, many people live a better life.
Margy Wooding
Ashtead, Surrey

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