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High Court fight over brain damaged five-year-old’s free movement bid begins

Lawyers representing Tafida Raqeeb say hospital bosses in London have wrongly refused to allow her parents to move her to a hospital in Italy.

Tafida Raqeeb has serious brain damage (Family handout/PA)
Tafida Raqeeb has serious brain damage (Family handout/PA)

By Brian Farmer, PA

A five-year-old girl who is in a “minimally conscious state” has begun a High Court fight for her rights under European Union free movement law.

Lawyers representing Tafida Raqeeb have told a High Court judge that hospital bosses in London have refused to allow her parents to move her to a hospital in Italy.

They told Mr Justice MacDonald that Tafida, who has serious brain damage, was being denied her right to free movement under European Union law.

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Tafida suffered a traumatic brain injury in February (Family handout/PA)

Doctors treating Tafida, who turned five on June 10, at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel say the damage is permanent and there is no chance of recovery.

Bosses at Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, want Mr Justice MacDonald to rule that stopping “life-sustaining treatment” is in the youngster’s best interests.

Tafida’s mother, solicitor Shelina Begum, 39, and father Mohammed Raqeeb, 45, a construction consultant, want to move her to Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa, Italy, and have organised funding for treatment.

The couple, from Newham, east London, say Gaslini is the Italian equivalent of Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in London and specialists there are willing to keep providing life-support treatment to their daughter.

Lawyers have taken legal action in Tafida’s name and been given instructions by a relative.

Barrister Vikram Sachdeva QC, who is leading Tafida’s legal team, outlined her case to Mr Justice MacDonald on Monday at the start of a High Court trial in London.

“As a matter of EU law,” Mr Sachdeva told the judge.

“Tafida and her parents have, in principle, a right to elect to receive medical care in another EU state.”

He added: “By refusing her transfer, the trust is acting in breach of that right.”

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Tafida’s mother, solicitor Shelina Begum (Sian Harrison/PA)

Mr Sachdeva said the Italian view of what was in the best interests of children differed to the British view.

Doctors in London had concluded that Tafida’s quality of life would not benefit from continued life-support treatment.

But, he said, in Italy doctors did not stop life-support treatment until brain death – and Tafida was not brain dead.

Mr Sachdeva said doctors in Italy agreed with the diagnosis made by doctors in London and were not offering “some experimental treatment”.

But, he said, they would continue to provide life-support treatment.

He said Tafida, who has a British-Bangladeshi background, came from a Muslim family and her parents took the view that only God could take life, not mankind.

Mr Sachdeva said blood vessels in her brain ruptured and left her in a “paediatric equivalent of a minimally conscious state”.

The trial continues and is expected to end later this week.

PA

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