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'Tafida would want to continue her life': Mum's High Court plea to save sick five-year-old

PUBLISHED: 15:00 13 September 2019

Five-year-old Tafida Raqeeb is in a coma after suffering a brain injury. Picture: Family handout

Five-year-old Tafida Raqeeb is in a coma after suffering a brain injury. Picture: Family handout

Family handout

The mother of a brain-damaged five-year-old girl at the centre of a High Court life support treatment dispute has said she would want to stay alive if she were in her daughter's position.

Shelina Begum told a judge that her daughter, Tafida Raqeeb, would also want doctors to keep providing life support treatment.

Doctors treating Tafida, who is in a minimally conscious state, at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel say the youngster has permanent brain damage and no chance of recovery.

Bosses at Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, want Mr Justice MacDonald to rule that stopping life support treatment is in her best interests.

Tafida's parents, who live in Upton Park, want to move her to the Gaslini children's hospital in Genoa, Italy, and have organised funding.

Ms Begum and Tafida's father, construction consultant Mohammed Raqeeb, 45, say doctors there will keep providing life support treatment until Tafida is diagnosed as brain dead.

Mr Justice MacDonald has been asked to decide what is in Tafida's best interests and is analysing evidence at a High Court trial in London.

"If it happens to me, I want my life to continue until a time that God actually takes me, not withdraw life support from me," Ms Begum told the judge.

"Tafida would want to continue her life."

She said Tafida would ask: "Why am I not being given a chance?"

Ms Begum said doctors had thought Tafida was going to die a number of times.

But she said her daughter had confounded expectations.

She said she was from a British-Bangladeshi Muslim family.

An Islamic scholar had told her that she could not agree to life support treatment ending.

Muslim law said only God could end life and taking life was a "great sin" and an "evil act".

"With time and rehabilitation, we hope that some of her functions may return," said Ms Begum.

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"Even if it doesn't return, we would still think she should get a chance to live her life the way it is."

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.

"I don't want to think about what the future is going to bring," Ms Begum told the judge.

"I will deal with that when that time comes."

She added: "I don't know what is going to happen."

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

They say the youngster has been denied her right to elect to receive medical care in another European state and should be allowed to go on living.

"One needs to put oneself, so far as one can, in the position of the patient and ask what the patient would have wanted," barrister Vikram Sachdeva, who is leading Tafida's legal team, told Mr Justice MacDonald on Friday.

"It is a very weighty factor."

He added: "There is very cogent, convincing evidence of what Tafida's wishes and feelings and beliefs and values are."

Doctors say they do not think that Tafida is in pain - and the youngster's parents agree.

"There is really very little on the downside," said Mr Sachdeva. "If Tafida does not feel pain, then the downside is very, very limited."

He said on the "upside" there was the "sanctity of life".

"For many people there would be no benefit in this case," said Mr Sachdeva.

"But for Tafida there would be because Tafida would not, on the evidence we have, wish to take a course which would be considered to be a sin, a significant sin, among the religious community to which she does belong."

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