What happened to Archie Battersbee? His injury, coma and battle to stay on life support explained

The 12-year-old died after his life support was withdrawn

Archie Battersbee
(Image credit: Alamy)

The 12-year-old died on 6 August after four months in a coma, leaving many asking what happened to Archie Battersbee?

Archie Battersbee was hospitalised after it's thought he attempted the blackout challenge, a dangerous TikTok trend that has recently emerged on the platform. Found unconscious by his mum at home in April 2022, doctors decided to end the 12-year-old's life support after he had spent nearly four months in a coma - though his parents fought to give him more time. Archie's sad story resonated with parents across the country, generating widespread sympathy and a reminder of the devastating effects social media can have.

Now, an inquest into his death has heard evidence that Archie had shared messages with others discussing self-harm and suicide, with a pre-inquest in November suggesting there was "no evidence" that Archie had been taking part in an online challenge. Here's what happened to Archie Battersbee.

How did Archie Battersbee get injured?

Archie's mother, Hollie Dance, believes he sustained his brain damage from taking part in a viral social media challenge, after she found him unconscious at their home on 7 April, 2022.

The trend is known as 'the blackout challenge' (also the 'choking challenge' or the 'pass-out challenge') and is one of the latest in a series of dangerous trends surfacing on TikTok. The challenge has already resulted in the deaths of eight-year-old Lalani Erika Renee Walton from Texas and nine-year-old Arriani Jaileen Arroyo from Wisconsin. Both the girls were apparently avid TikTok users and liked to post videos on the app.

However, at the pre-inquest hearing in Chelmsford in November 2022, Essex's senior coroner Lincoln Brookes said there was "no evidence at this stage to substantiate the concern" that Archie had been taking part in an online challenge.

Information downloaded from Archie's phone showed no evidence of him filming any video on the day he was injured and no photographs or videos to suggest he was taking part in the blackout challenge, but what they had found were messages in which Archie had discussed self-harm and suicide with others online.

Hollie Dance said she believes Archie's death was an accident, explaining that Archie was a talented gymnast and "thought he was the next Spider Man", adding she thinks "he climbed on the banister and probably fell, causing serious injury to his neck, resulting in unconsciousness."

How did Archie get brain damage?

The blackout challenge results in a lack of oxygen to the brain, which can be deadly. Although it's not known for certain if Archie was attempting the challenge, his mother initially believed this to be the case, after she found him with a ligature (a piece of knotted or tied fabric) round his head.

Dr Nick Flynn explained to the Irish Examiner the effects of the blackout challenge. He said: "What is actually going on in the brain is a lack of oxygen similar to when someone is drowning, choking, or having a cardiac arrest. If you have low oxygen to the brain for over three minutes you can get brain damage and if you have low oxygen to the brain for over five minutes it can result in death."

Why was Archie in a coma?

Archie never regained consciousness after his mother found him at home in early April, and was in a coma for four months, as a result of his injury.

His parents spent weeks fighting a legal battle to keep Archie on life support, in which a specialist told the judge that Archie's brain-stem was significantly damaged, and that there are signs of deterioration since the earlier scans taken in mid-April.

He added that Archie's prognosis was "very grave" and his chances of recovery were "very low".

However, Archie's mother, Ms Dance, said that his stable heartbeat and ability to regulate his temperature and blood pressure was a reason to give him more time. She also wanted to have her son moved to a hospice, so that he could 'spend his last moments' privately with family.

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Why was Archie on life support?

Doctors said that Archie was brain-stem dead, and therefore couldn't live without life support. They also said that it was in his best interests for his life support to end.

Archie's parents, Hollie Dance, 46, and Paul Battersbee, 57, from Southend-on-Sea in Essex, fought a legal battle against Barts NHS trust starting in May, in order to keep their son on life support. However, The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel - where Archie was being treated - made the decision to end his care at 2pm on Monday 1 August.

Archie's parents were granted a hearing that same morning after the health secretary asked the courts to "urgently consider" a request from the United Nations to continue his treatment, however the Court of Appeal refused to postpone withdrawal of treatment until the UN can hear the case.

Archie Battersbee court battle - latest update

A High Court ruled that Archie could not be moved to from hospital to a hospice, because it would not be in the 12-year-old's best interests.

Archie's family applied for permission to move him after the after The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused an appeal to postpone the withdrawal of his life support. The ECHR said it "would not interfere" with the UK courts' rulings, following the Court of Appeal's decision that Archie's life-sustaining treatment should not continue, and the Supreme Court's rejection of an earlier appeal. 

Lawyers for Barts Health NHS Trust said in a letter "The trust continues to put Archie's welfare and best interests at the forefront of its decision making about his care. It believes that Archie's condition is unstable and that transferring him even a short distance involves significant risk."

On 6 August 2022, Archie Battersbee died in hospital at 12.15 BST after his life support was withdrawn. Speaking outside the hospital where he died, Archie's mother, Hollie Dance, said she was "the proudest mum in the world".

The Samaritans operate a free helpline open 24/7 on 116 123. Alternatively, you can email jo@samaritans.org or go to the Samaritans website.

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Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.