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  1. ITV Report

Hospital lawyer protests over claim doctors planned to turn off Tafida Raqeeb's life-support without permission

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

A lawyer representing hospital bosses in the case of a life-support dispute centred on a seriously-ill five-year-old girl protested when a judge was told doctors at a London hospital had planned to stop treatment without approval.

Doctors treating Tafida Raqeeb 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 the youngster's best interests.

But Shelina Begum and Mohammed Raqeeb, disagree with the NHS decision and want to move their daughter to Gaslini children's hospital in Genoa, Italy

During the first day of the trial, Barrister David Lock QC, who represents Tafida's parents, said there was evidence that staff were planning to stop treating the youngster in July without permission.

In response to Mr Lock's accusation, Katie Gollop QC, leading the trust's legal team, interrupted Mr Lock, saying: "That's a very, very serious allegation."

Tafida Raqeeb, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in February. Credit: Family handout/PA

Mr Justice MacDonald has been asked to make decisions about Tafida's future and is analysing evidence at a High Court trial in London which began on Monday.

The judge heard that Tafida has “very serious” brain damage and doctors treating her say the damage is permanent and and there is no chance of recovery.

The couple, from Newham in east London, lodged papers with the High Court in July seeking a review of the case.

Vikram Sachdeva QC, who is leading Tafida's legal team, told Mr Justice MacDonald: "As a matter of EU law, Tafida and her parents have, in principle, a right to elect to receive medical care in another EU state."

He added: "By refusing her transfer, the trust is acting in breach of that right."

Doctors in London had concluded that Tafida's quality of life would not benefit from continued life-support treatment.

But, he said, in Italy doctors did not stop life-support treatment until brain death - and Tafida was not brain dead.

Mr Sachdeva said doctors in Italy agreed with the diagnosis made by doctors in London, and were not offering "some experimental treatment".

Tafida, who has a British-Bangladeshi background, came from a Muslim family and her parents took the view that only God could take life, not mankind.

Speaking outside court on Monday, Mrs Begum said it has been a “very emotional day” and never thought she would be in court fighting for her daughter’s life.

She said she followed the case of Charlie Gard, who died after his parents lost a court battle for further life support treatment.

“So what I’m going to say to the public – this could be you tomorrow,” she said.

Holding a picture she took of Tafida on her mobile phone on Monday morning, she added: “This is Tafida this morning and I promised her that mummy and daddy will definitely get you out of this hospital.

“This is Tafida, I left her this morning staring right into my eyes. We are not going to give up on our daughter.”

Tafida's parents promised they will get her out of hospital. Credit: Family handout/PA

Mrs Begum, who works for a London law firm, told ITV News in July that "our world has been turned upside down".

"I cry to bed every night, thinking 'what is my daughter going through?'."

Mrs Begum claimed there were "clear signs" Tafida was improving.

"She has a clear sleep and wake cycle. She reacts to pain. She reacts to my voice. She opens her eyes - she's tracing me."

At the time of writing, 37,952 people have signed a petition calling for Tafida's release from the hospital and more than £25,000 has been raised on the family's GoFundMe page.

On the petition, the family wrote that Tafida suffered “a ruptured blood vessel (arteriovenous malformation) in her brain".

They said: “On February 9, Tafida collapsed at home and suffered a cardiac and respiratory attack.

“She was rushed to the local hospital and later transferred to a specialist hospital for brain surgery.

“Post-surgery, the neurosurgeons had told the family that the first 48 hours to one week would be critical for her, but like the determined little child we knew her as, she fought hard.”

It said five months later, Tafida has begun to show signs of progress and is "reacting to pain, movement of limbs and opening and closing of eyes".