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Parents win court bid to take Tafida, five, to Italy to continue life support

The youngster is being cared for at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.

Shelina Begum holds a picture of her five-year-old daughter Tafida Raqeeb outside the Royal Courts of Justice (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Shelina Begum holds a picture of her five-year-old daughter Tafida Raqeeb outside the Royal Courts of Justice (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

By Brian Farmer, PA

A couple who want to move their severely disabled five-year-old daughter to an Italian hospital have won a High Court life-support treatment fight.

Specialists caring for Tafida Raqeeb at the Royal London Hospital in east London said further treatment would be futile because the youngster has permanent brain damage, is in a minimally conscious state and has no chance of recovery.

Tafida’s parents, who live in Newham, east London, want to move her to Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa, and have organised funding.

Her mother, solicitor Shelina Begum, and father, construction consultant Mohammed Raqeeb, said doctors there would keep providing life-support treatment until Tafida was diagnosed as brain dead.

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

It has been a very challenging and exhausting journey for Tafida’s parents. They look forward to her receiving outstanding care at the Gaslini hospital in Genoa Paul Conrathe, solicitor

Ms Begum, 39, and Mr Raqeeb, 45, were in court to hear a judge ruled that Tafida can be moved in Italy.

Mr Raqeeb said after the ruling: “We are thrilled with the judgment.”

Barrister David Lock QC, who represented them, said: “My clients have asked me to express their profound thanks.”

He said the ruling the ruling was an “enormous relief” to them.

Mr Lock said they “wanted to get on with the transfer”.

Lawyers representing the trust said bosses would consider an appeal.

Mr Justice MacDonald analysed evidence at a recent High Court trial in London.

Bosses at Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the Royal London Hospital, had asked the judge to rule that stopping life-support treatment was in Tafida’s best interests.

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.

Mr Justice MacDonald heard 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 were tangled and had ruptured.

Mr Justice MacDonald wished Tafida and her parents well.

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Tafida’s parents Shelina Begum and Mohammed Raqeeb outside court (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Barrister Katie Gollop QC told the judge that his ruling could have implications for other children.

Solicitor Paul Conrathe of Sinclairslaw, who represented Tafida’s parents, said after the hearing: “Today the court ruled that Tafida should be allowed to be treated in Italy as her parents requested many months ago.

“Tafida is not in pain and could live for up to a further 20 years.

“This judgment recognised however that a child’s best interests are not merely medical, but include broader social and religious values. It also recognised the legal right of parents to request life-prolonging treatment in another EU state so that their child can be treated under that system of care and ethics.

“It has been a very challenging and exhausting journey for Tafida’s parents. They look forward to her receiving outstanding care at the Gaslini hospital in Genoa. They will also feel at peace knowing that Tafida will be cared for under the Italian ethical and legal system.”

Lawyer Mathieu Culverhouse, who works at law firm Irwin Mitchell and represented Tafida, said after the hearing: “There are no winners in a case like this, but the family are relieved they are now a step closer to taking Tafida to Italy for treatment.

“The court had to consider whether the hospital had a legal right to detain a child and prevent parents from transferring their child to private medical care abroad.

“In the wake of strong legal arguments, the court agreed the parents should not be prevented from seeking alternative medical care abroad. A hospital in Genoa has confirmed it is willing to continue Tafida’s care and has the expertise to do so. The Italian hospital has confirmed that Tafida will not have her life-sustaining treatment withdrawn in her current condition under Italian law.

“I am pleased to have fought for a judgment from the High Court which clarifies a complex area of law. At the heart of this, there is still a very poorly little girl. Everyone has Tafida’s best interests at heart. Tafida’s family would like to thank the public for their support in what remains a very distressing time for the family.

“Tafida suffers from a rare condition which causes a tangle of blood vessels with abnormal connections between the arteries and veins and suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result. She was apparently completely healthy before her injury.”

Ms Begum said the legal fight had been “extremely traumatic”.

She said the family had always had Tafida’s best interests at heart.

PA

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