From the Right



Hospitals Need to Defer to Families on Life-and-Death Issues

Betsy McCaughey on

Hospitals need to back off their authoritarian "we know best" posture and respect what a patient's family wants.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, Royal London Hospital stopped life support for 12-year-old Archie Battersbee, against his parents' wishes. He was dead by 12.15 p.m. Millions had followed his case since April, when his mother found him unconscious on the floor.

Apparently, he took a dangerous dare promoted on TikTok to hold his breath until he blacked out. Archie damaged his brain and never regained consciousness.

Watching Archie's family battle the medical establishment raised a troubling question: Will imperious hospital personnel get to dictate when the plug is pulled on someone you love? Hospitals are cutting lives short, defying families.

After Archie spent months on a mechanical ventilator, his parents wanted to move him to hospice, at private expense. But the hospital refused to release him, instead insisting on terminating life support.

With the aid of the Christian Legal Centre, the parents went to court to stop what they considered an execution. They argued that Archie's heart was still beating and tests confirming brain death had not actually been done.


The British High Court sided with the hospital.

Archie's fate resembles the death of another British child, 23-month-old Alfie Evans, in 2018. Pope Francis was ready to take Alfie to a facility in Rome for brain-damaged children. An air ambulance stood by, but the hospital refused to allow the transfer and ended the toddler's life instead.

British courts ruled that "the hospital must be free to do what has been determined to be in Alfie's best interests."

That's a phrase hospitals in the U.S. and the U.K. use often to override what parents want.


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