Critically-ill children and the international human rights system: assessing the status and role of the UNCRPD in the case of Archie Battersbee




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Over the past few years, some parents and clinicians in the UK have argued about decisions on the fate of critically-ill children, with the cases ending in protracted and emotionally-sapping legal disputes. The long -running legal conflicts have played out in the public eye, eliciting conflicting opinions. At the core of the disputes is whether parents or clinicians should determine the appropriate course of action. In the event of the disagreements, the domestic court intervenes guided by the ‘best interests’ principle. A corpus of scholarship, falling on either side of the debate, has captured the contradictions. Until recently, the discourse had focused on the common recourses to domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights. However, in the recent case of incapacitated 12-year-old Archie Battersbee, his parents sought redress from the international human rights system through the Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities to stop termination of his life support. The courts barred the involvement of the Committee on the basis that the UK had not incorporated the treaty which birthed the Committee. The case brought into sharp focus the relationship between international law and domestic law. First, this paper asserts that the weight (not) given to international law by the domestic courts was inconsistent with its treatment of international obligations in other cases. Secondly, the position that unincorporated treaties do not have legal effect in domestic proceedings is ambiguous. Finally, the treaty body appeared ill-suited to handle a case of a critically-ill child in the face of the impatient demands of local justice


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.



Nyamutata, C. (2024) Critically-Ill Children and the International Human Rights System: Assessing the Status and Role of the UNCRPD in the Case of Archie Battersbee. European Journal of Health Law, 32 (1), pp. 27-50


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Research Institute

Centre for Law, Justice and Society