Archie Battersbee 1

The invention of ‘brain death’, a breakdown in trust, the child’s best interests, and how to turn off life support

Twelve-year-old Archie Battersbee died on 7 August, after months of legal wrangling between doctors who believed he was brain dead and wished to end life support, and his family who resisted this. This tragic case has captured a lot of media attention, and in this episode we try to unpick some of the complicated medical and ethical challenges thrown up by the story. Why is it so much harder today than in the past to actually determine if a person has died? How can, and should, the courts overrule the wishes of a child’s parents regarding medical treatment (or its withdrawal)? And can Christians be pro-life and anti-euthanasia, while still supporting the doctors’ wish to allow Archie to die?

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