The parents of a brain-damaged young girl have won a legal fight to take her to Italy for treatment after British doctors argued that her life support should be turned off.
Five-year-old Tafida Raqeeb has been at the Royal London Hospital since suffering a traumatic brain injury in February, but could be moved to the Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa within 10 days after a High Court judge ruled in her family’s favour.
Solicitor Shelina Begum, 39, and construction consultant Mohammed Raqeeb, 45, of Newham, east London, looked to raise the funds needed for the transfer after doctors in England said that further treatment would be futile and that she has no realistic chance of recovery.
Lawyers representing bosses at Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the Royal London Hospital, could still ask Mr Justice MacDonald to halt Tafida’s transfer pending any appeal hearing on Friday.
They said further treatment would be futile because the youngster had permanent brain damage, was in a minimally conscious state and had no chance of recovery.
Ms Begum and Mr Raqeeb said doctors in Genoa would keep providing life-support treatment until Tafida was diagnosed as brain dead.
They said Tafida, who has a British-Bangladeshi background, was from a Muslim family and Islamic law only allowed God to end life.
Mr Justice MacDonald, who had analysed evidence at a recent High Court trial in London, approved a move to Italy in a ruling delivered on Thursday.
Ms Begum said, after Thursday’s ruling, that the fight had been “exhausting” and traumatic”.
“We have always had Tafida’s best interests at heart and we have never wanted to come to court to have to argue for our rights to seek continued care in a world-class hospital willing to give her the treatment she needs,” she said.
“The entire experience of having to fight for our daughter’s life over the last three months has been exhausting and traumatic for all of her family.”
Lawyers had told Mr Justice MacDonald that Tafida’s case had echoes of similar high-profile life-support treatment cases involving three children – Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and Isaiah Haastrup.
Judges concluded that all three of those children should be allowed to die.
Mr Justice MacDonald was told 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 had ruptured.
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.
Miss Gollop had told the judge how blood vessels in Tafida’s brain were “tangled up”.
The youngster could not now swallow, taste or see, she said.
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 told the judge that 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”.
A spokesman for the Barts trust said lawyers and bosses were considering the implications of the ruling for the trust, other NHS organisations, doctors and patients.