Disabled girl’s parents wait to see if they face another legal fight

A couple who have been given the go-ahead to move their severely disabled five-year-old daughter to an Italian hospital are waiting to see whether they will have to fight another legal battle.

Tafida Raqeeb’s parents won a High Court fight on Thursday when a judge ruled that the youngster could be moved to the Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa.

Solicitor Shelina Begum, 39, and construction consultant Mohammed Raqeeb, 45, of Newham, east London, hope to move Tafida to Italy in the next 10 days.

But they are waiting to see whether bosses at a hospital in London, where Tafida is currently being treated, will challenge Mr Justice MacDonald’s ruling and ask Court of Appeal judges to consider the case.

Lawyers representing bosses at Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the Royal London Hospital, might ask Mr Justice MacDonald to halt Tafida’s transfer pending any appeal hearing on Friday.

Specialists at the Royal London Hospital had opposed a move to Italy.

They said further treatment would be futile because the youngster had permanent brain damage, was in a minimally conscious state and had no chance of recovery.

Lawyers representing Tafida had asked him to rule that she could be moved to Italy.

They had taken instructions from a relative and their application was backed by Tafida’s parents.

Tafida Raqeeb brain injury
Shelina Begum and husband Mohammed Raqeeb (right) outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Ms Begum and Mr Raqeeb said doctors in Genoa would keep providing life-support treatment until Tafida was diagnosed as brain dead.

They said Tafida, who has a British-Bangladeshi background, was from a Muslim family and Islamic law only allowed God to end life.

Mr Justice MacDonald, who had analysed evidence at a recent High Court trial in London, approved a move to Italy in a ruling delivered on Thursday.

But barrister Katie Gollop QC, who leads the Barts Trust legal team, told the judge that his ruling could have implications for other children.

She indicated that an appeal would be considered.

Lawyers said Mr Justice MacDonald could be asked to halt Tafida’s move pending an appeal at a further High Court hearing on Friday.

Ms Begum said, after Thursday’s ruling, that the fight had been “exhausting” and traumatic”.

“We have always had Tafida’s best interests at heart and we have never wanted to come to court to have to argue for our rights to seek continued care in a world-class hospital willing to give her the treatment she needs,” she said.

“The entire experience of having to fight for our daughter’s life over the last three months has been exhausting and traumatic for all of her family.”

She added: “It is vital for Tafida that she is removed from the Royal London Hospital and transferred to the Gaslini … at the earliest opportunity. This is our priority for Tafida.”

A lawyer who represented Tafida’s parents said they hoped to transfer the youngster to Italy in the next 10 days.

Tafida Raqeeb brain injury
Tafida Raqeeb (Family handout/PA)

Lawyers had told Mr Justice MacDonald that Tafida’s case had echoes of similar high-profile life-support treatment cases involving three children – Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and Isaiah Haastrup.

Judges concluded that all three of those children should be allowed to die.

Mr Justice MacDonald was told how Tafida woke her parents in the early hours in February complaining of a headache.

She collapsed shortly afterwards and doctors discovered that blood vessels in her brain had ruptured.

Specialists say Tafida could live for years with life-support treatment.

But they say there is a “high chance” she will develop epilepsy which could not be treated.

They say she is likely to develop a disorder of the nervous system, spasticity, and be unable to control her movement.

Miss Gollop had told the judge how blood vessels in Tafida’s brain were “tangled up”.

The youngster could not now swallow, taste or see, she said.

Miss Gollop said Tafida might be able to “hear a little”, but could not breathe for herself and could not “experience touch” in large parts of her body.

She told the judge that all doctors who were asked for an opinion, including Italian medics and a specialist at Great Ormond Street in London, said Tafida would never come off a ventilator and would always need artificial assistance.

Miss Gollop said doctors thought the little girl was “beyond experience”.

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