High Court to decide if five-year-old in coma should be allowed to die
- Credit: Family handout
A family’s fight to take their seriously ill daughter to Italy for treatment after doctors said it would be in her best interests to be allowed to die will be heard at the High Court in September.
Tafida Raqeeb was a previously healthy five-year-old who suffered a traumatic brain injury in February and has been on life support ever since at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, part of Barts Health NHS Trust.
Doctors treating Tafida say there is no chance of recovery and the trust is asking the court to determine what her "best interests" are and whether "life-sustaining treatment" should be withdrawn.
However, her mother Shelina Begum, a 39-year-old solicitor, and father Mohammed Raqeeb, 45, who is a construction consultant, want to remove her from the hospital and take her to Gaslini children's hospital in Genoa for treatment.
The couple, from Upton Park, say experts at the hospital are willing to treat Tafida and believe she could emerge from her coma in a few months.
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Her family is bringing a separate legal challenge, seeking a judicial review of the hospital's refusal to allow them to remove Tafida and take her to Italy.
At a preliminary hearing on Monday, July 22, Mr Justice MacDonald said he will deal with both sets of proceedings at the same time, at a week-long hearing in September.
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The judge refused an application by lawyers representing Tafida and her family for the judicial review to be heard separately from and before the hospital's case.
He said both cases involve the same parties and much of the same evidence, and that it would be "discordant" for the court to consider the same issues twice at different hearings.
He also said that holding a consolidated hearing was the most "suitable and proportionate way" of avoiding delay in determining the "very difficult issues".
Ms Begum and Mr Raqeeb attended the hearing and sat at the back of the courtroom.
Speaking after a hearing last week, Ms Begum said she wanted to "exercise her rights as a parent" and for her daughter to be given more time.
She said: "Time will tell what she will gain and what she won't gain.
"It's about giving her that time."
The trust has agreed to continue providing "life-sustaining" treatment to Tafida throughout proceedings.
At last week's hearing, Mr Justice MacDonald refused the trust's application for an "interim declaration" regarding more invasive treatment, such as CPR, in the event her condition worsens and said an emergency application can be made if necessary.
The judge also made an order prohibiting the publication of the identities, photographs or recordings of the voices of any of Tafida's treating clinicians.
A change.org petition set up by Ms Begum to support Tafida's move to Italy has reached more than 18,000 signatures.
Tafida collapsed at home on February 9 and was taken to Newham University Hospital, where doctors identified a blood clot on her brain.
She was transferred to King's College Hospital for emergency surgery and was later taken to the Royal London Hospital in April.
According to court documents, her parents were told at a meeting in June that the hospital wished to discontinue treatment and allow Tafida to die.
Barts Health NHS Trust said in a statement issued last week: "This is a very sad case, for which we are in close contact with the family to offer support.
"Our expert clinicians caring for Tafida Raqeeb have determined, in discussion with additional independent medical experts elsewhere in London, that further invasive medical treatment is futile.
"As such we are ensuring that we keep the family involved and uphold Tafida's best interests, recommending withdrawal of life sustaining treatment and instigating palliative care."
Yogi Amin, a human rights lawyer and partner at Irwin Mitchell law firm, who is representing Tafida, said: "The heartbroken family do not want to be caught in a situation where the state overrules the parents' good intentions to arrange [...] treatment in a hospital of their choosing for their disabled daughter.
"There is no evidence that Tafida will be harmed during transit or abroad and her loving parents should have a legal right to elect to transfer their daughter to another hospital for private medical care."