The family of a seriously ill five-year-old girl are appealing to the High Court to try to force NHS doctors to release her for what they believe would be life-saving treatment in Italy.
Tafida Raqeeb, from Newham, east London, sustained a traumatic brain injury in February and is on a life-support machine at Royal London hospital.
Her parents want to fly her to Italy for treatment but doctors at the hospital, part of Bart’s NHS trust, say it would not be in her best interests and life-support should be withdrawn. The trust has now asked the High Court to adjudicate in the case next month.
Her parents, Shelina Begum and Mohammed Raqeeb, have set up a petition urging the hospital to release Tafida for treatment as well as a crowdfunding page seeking to raise £400,000 for the costs of treatment, travel to Italy and legal costs to challenge the trust’s decision.
The petition states: “Tafida Raqeeb is a previously healthy 5-year-old child who suffered from a traumatic brain injury in February 2019. She had a ruptured blood vessel (arteriovenous malformation) in her brain and is currently on the life support machine at Royal London Hospital (RLH).
“On 9th February, 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 1 week would be critical for her but like the determined little child we knew her as, she fought hard. 5 months later, Tafida is beginning to show some signs of progress, such as reacting to pain, movement of limbs and opening and closing of eyes.
“Initially, the family were informed that Tafida will have a tracheostomy, which meant that she can come off the ventilator. The family were even told that she may be able to go home after a few months and her recovery could continue at home. However, the medical team have now changed their mind and want to withdraw ventilation to end her life.
“Tafida’s parents are very distraught as they have seen their little daughter make progress in the 5 months that she has been in intensive care; and therefore have requested to allow more time for her recovery. Unfortunately, the plea fell on death ears, and so not wanting to leave any stone unturned, they researched foreign treatment.
“They have found a European hospital willing to continue treatment for Tafida but sadly, RLH are refusing to release her. We would like to request Royal London Hospital to give this 5 year old child a chance to make a recovery and allow her to be transferred to a hospital that is willing to take care of her and continue with her treatment.”
As of today, the petition had amassed more than 30,000 signatures and the crowdfunding page had raised about £20,000.
A spokeswoman for Barts NHS trust said: “This is a sad situation, in which our teams continue to work very closely with the family to include them and offer our support.
“Our expert clinicians caring for Tafida consider, in discussion with additional medical experts from specialist centres outside of the trust, that further medical treatment would not improve her condition and would not be in her best interests.
“We recognise how difficult this is for all involved and, in accordance with national guidance from the General Medical Council in complex cases, are seeking the expert opinion of the high court to ensure the trust and the family provide the most appropriate care.”