Judge must decide if sick five-year-old has any quality of life

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 - Credit: Family handout

A judge must decide whether a brain-damaged girl in a minimally conscious state has any quality of life, a lawyer representing the youngster has said.

Five-year-old Tafida Raqeeb is at the centre of a High Court life-support treatment row.

Doctors treating Tafida at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel say she 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 Gaslini children's hospital in Genoa, Italy, and have organised funding.

Her mother, solicitor Shelina Begum, 39, and 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 is analysing the dispute at a High Court trial in London.

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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.

Vikram Sachdeva QC, leading Tafida's legal team, told that judge: "When you drill down it is based on differing views of what quality of life Tafida has.

"Clinicians (in England) don't think she has a quality of life. Her parents do."

He said the couple wanted to take Tafida to a country where she would keep getting life-support treatment and where doctors' views on quality of life were in line with their own.

Mr Justice MacDonald has been told 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.

Katie Gollop QC, who leads the trust's legal team, has told the judge no-one knew blood vessels in Tafida's brain were "tangled up".

Tafida could not now swallow, taste or see, the judge heard.

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 said 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".

She said the Gaslini hospital was offering to continue life-support treatment as a "comfort" to the family.

Gaslini specialists would continue to provide life-support treatment for parents who could pay and wanted such treatment to continue, she said.

Lawyers have told the judge that Tafida's case has echoes of similar high-profile life support treatment cases involving three children - Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and Isaiah Haastrup.

The hearing continues