The mother of a seriously ill little girl has said she wants her daughter to be given time to recover after doctors said it is in the child’s best interests to be allowed to die.
Tafida Raqeeb was a previously healthy five-year-old who suffered a traumatic brain injury in February and has been on life support ever since at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, part of Barts Health NHS Trust.
Doctors treating Tafida say there is no chance of recovery and have consulted a range of other medics who all agree that treatment is futile.
However, her mother Shelina Begum, a 39-year-old solicitor, and father Mohammed Raqeeb, 45, who is a construction consultant, want to remove her from the hospital and take her to Italy for treatment.
The couple, from Newham, east London, say experts at Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa are willing to treat Tafida and believe she could emerge from her coma in a few months.
Speaking outside the High Court after the first hearing in a legal battle over Tafida’s treatment, Mrs Begum said her daughter’s condition has improved already and that she is stable and on “very minimal” life support.
She also said doctors need to wait to see how much damage has been done to Tafida’s brain.
The 39-year-old solicitor, who works for a London law firm, said: “Time will tell what she will gain and what she won’t gain.
“It’s about giving her that time.”
Mrs Begum also said she wants to be allowed to exercise her rights as a parent and take her child to the hospital in Italy.
She said: “I just want to take my child out. Let me take her out, let me exercise my rights.”
She added: “They clearly know that Tafida is not end of life and they are still trying to do this.
“I feel disgusted that they are still pursuing this.”
Tafida’s family lodged papers with the High Court on Tuesday morning seeking a review of the hospital’s refusal to transfer Tafida to the Italian hospital.
There was also a preliminary hearing in the Family Division of the High Court on Tuesday afternoon, following an application by Barts Health NHS Trust.
Mr Justice MacDonald adjourned the hearing until Monday afternoon to give Mrs Begum, who was present at the hearing, time to seek legal advice.
He said: “Given the unprecedented gravity of the issues before the court, it is very important for her to have access to, and to take, legal advice.”
The judge said the two cases may be joined, telling Mrs Begum: “My aim would be for the two applications to be heard together because they are essentially, at their very heart, about the same thing.”
He also made a temporary order prohibiting the publication of the identities, photographs or recordings of the voices of any of Tafida’s treating clinicians.
Katie Gollop QC, for the trust, told the court during the hearing that the hospital is “content” to continue providing “life-sustaining” treatment to Tafida, but is concerned what may happen if her condition worsens.
She told the court: “The issue that is exercising the hospital to some extent is what is to happen in the event that there is a deterioration in Tafida’s condition between now and any hearing.
“The hospital would not wish to give antibiotics or any other escalated treatment, or to provide CPR resuscitation.”
However, Mr Justice MacDonald refused to make any “interim declaration” regarding treatment while Mrs Begum is not represented by lawyers.
The judge said the trust could make an emergency application to the court if necessary.
By the conclusion of the hearing, a change.org petition set up by Mrs Begum to support Tafida’s move to Italy had reached more than 6,000 signatures.
Tafida collapsed at home on February 9 and was taken to Newham University Hospital, where doctors identified a blood clot on her brain.
She was transferred to Kings College Hospital for emergency surgery and was later taken to the Royal London Hospital in April.
According to court documents, her parents were told at a meeting in June that the hospital wished to discontinue treatment and allow Tafida to die.
A statement from Barts Health NHS Trust said: “This is a very sad case, for which we are in close contact with the family to offer support.
“Our expert clinicians caring for Tafida Raqeeb have determined, in discussion with additional independent medical experts elsewhere in London, that further invasive medical treatment is futile.
“As such we are ensuring that we keep the family involved and uphold Tafida’s best interests, recommending withdrawal of life sustaining treatment and instigating palliative care.”
The case bears similarities to that of Charlie Gard, who died in July 2017 after his parents lost their legal battle to take him to the US for experimental treatment they hoped could give him a “meaningful life”.
Chris Gard and Connie Yates wanted him moved from Great Ormond Street Hospital, but a High Court judge ruled it would be in Charlie’s best interests to be allowed to die – a decision which was upheld on appeal.