Mother of brain-damaged girl, 5, battles to keep daughter alive

12 September 2019, 21:27 | Updated: 15 September 2019, 20:38

Tafida's parents no longer trust UK doctors and wish to fly her to Italy
Tafida's parents no longer trust UK doctors and wish to fly her to Italy. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A mother of a brain-damaged five-year-old has said her daughter would "want to continue her life" despite doctors saying she has no chance of recovery.

Tafida Raqeeb, who is in a minimally conscious state, has been at the centre of a High Court row over whether treatment to keep her alive should be continued.

Shelina Begum told a judge that she would not want life support to be switched off if she was in her daughter's position.

The little girl's doctors believe that stopping life support treatment is in her best interests.

However Tafida's parents have been fundraising to move their daughter to a hospital in Genoa, Italy, in an attempt to keep her alive.

Ms Begum, a solicitor, told the presiding judge Mr Justice MacDonald that she does not want "any doctors in the UK to treat Tafida."

She said: "I just want to go to Italy. The trust between doctors and myself has come to a complete end, therefore I just cannot leave my daughter in their care anymore."

Shelina Begum said she would want to be kept alive if she was in her daughter's position
Shelina Begum said she would want to be kept alive if she was in her daughter's position. Picture: PA

Lawyers representing Tafida say she has been denied the right to receive medical care in another European country.

Tafida's parents, from Newham in East London, told the judge their daughter woke them early one morning in February complaining of a headache.

She collapsed shortly after and was taken to hospital where doctors discovered ruptured blood vessels in her brain.

"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.

She told the judge Tafida, from a British-Bangladeshi Muslim family, would ask why she was not being given a chance.

Ms Begum was told by an Islamic scholar that agreeing to life support treatment ending was not an option and Muslim law said only God could end life.

Taking life was a "great sin" and an "evil act" according to the advice Ms Begum received from the scholar.

Tafida's father and mother were woken by their daughter complaining about a headache
Tafida's father and mother were woken by their daughter complaining about a headache. Picture: PA

She said: "With time and rehabilitation, we hope that some of her functions may return and 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, however there is a "high chance" she will develop epilepsy which could not be treated.

A barrister heading the trust legal team told the judge on Wednesday that legal action taken in Tafida's name was an attempt to "drive a coach and horses" through the English legal system.

Katie Gollop QC said: "All this is an attempt to escape the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

She said the judge had to consider the magnitude of the case and told him: "This is not a choice between, 'would you like an Italian pizza or an English shepherd's pie'?

"All of this should be looked at in the context of what is in a child's best interests."

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, said Tafida would never come off a ventilator and would always need artificial assistance.

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