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5-year-old girl recovering in Italy after UK hospital fought to end life support

Tafida Raqeeb, the brain-damaged British five-year-old U.K. doctors wanted to pull the plug on, has been moved out of intensive care in an Italian hospital.
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Shelina Begum, mother of five-year-old Tafida Raqeeb. Good Morning Britain / YouTube
Lianne Laurence By Lianne Laurence

Lianne Laurence By Lianne Laurence

GENOA, Italy, January 9, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Tafida Raqeeb, the brain-damaged British five-year-old U.K. doctors wanted to pull the plug on, has been moved out of intensive care in an Italian hospital.

Tafida, who went into a coma last February after a blood vessel ruptured in her brain, was transferred to the Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa on October 15 after the British high court ruled that U.K. health authorities could not take her off life support against her parents’ wishes.

Construction engineer Mohammed Raqeeb, 45, and lawyer Shelina Begum, 39, appealed to the court after doctors at the Royal London hospital decided their daughter would not recover and that it would be in her best interest to let her die.

Those doctors have been “proved wrong — by Tafida herself,” Begum said this week, reported the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

Gaslini doctors and Tafida’s parents announced at a press conference Wednesday that the little girl has been transferred from intensive care to a private room in a residential unit, where she will receive rehabilitative care, including being gradually weaned off her ventilator, the U.K.’s Guardian reported.

“Today is a very special day for us. Tafida was moved from intensive care. It’s a big step, and it means a lot for us. We are delighted,” Begum said.

The hospital’s goal is to support Tafida’s vital functions to the point where it would be “possible for her to be fed and have mechanical ventilation at home,” said Dr. Andrea Moscatelli, head of Gaslini’s neonatal intensive care unit, the Guardian reported.

Tafida’s parents are from Newham, east London but have been living in Genoa to be close to Tafida, according to the Daily Mail.

“In cases of very serious neurological damage such as these, the prognosis is practically impossible. We will know over time,” Moscatelli observed.

“We are trying to give this little girl time to understand if there’ll be a potential improvement, and much of that potential improvement is yet to be understood.”

Gaslini doctors gave Tafida a tracheostomy — in which an opening is made in the neck and a tube placed into the windpipe — to help her breathe more easily on her own, as well as a procedure to ease pressure on her brain and stabilize her breathing, the Daily Mail reported.

She is being taken off her ventilator “for two or three hours a day, so she can breathe by herself,” Begum said.

“She has also come off the catheter. She is in control of her urinary function now,” added Tafida’s mother.

“All these things were not going to happen in the UK.”

Gaslini offered to take Tafida after her parents asked the world-renowned children’s hospital for a second opinion in July, in the midst of their legal battle to keep their daughter on life support.

“We want to express a heartfelt thanks to the entire Gaslini medical team, who took extraordinary care of Tafida, and also to the public who have supported us,” Begum said Wednesday.

“We have always said that time is what Tafida needs. We will just have to continue waiting to see what happens now.”

Gaslini’s general manager Paolo Petralia said the hospital is “happy to have welcomed Tafida, fulfilling the desire of her parents, who asked for time and all the best possible quality of life. This time for Tafida and her family is a condition of human dignity.”

The landmark high court decision sparing Tafida’s life “stunned the medical profession,” according to the Daily Mail.

Justice Alistair MacDonald noted in his October 3 ruling that “this is a case in which the sanctity of life is outweighed by other considerations.”

Tafida’s parents argued that according to Islamic law, only God could decide to end their daughter’s life, and MacDonald alluded to their faith in explaining why he decided to allow Tafida to go to Italy.

“[W]here a child is not in pain and is not aware of his or her parlous situation, these cases can place the objective best interests test under some stress,” MacDonald said.

“Tests must be looked for in subjective or highly value laden ethical, moral or religious factors ... which mean different things to different people in a diverse, multicultural, multi-faith society,” the judge said.

LifeSiteNews reporter Dorothy Cummings McLean noted in a previous report that Italian media have compared Tafida’s case to those of Charlie Gard, who died in 2017 at the age of 11 months, 24 days, and Alfie Evans, who died in 2018 eleven days before his second birthday.

Charlie was diagnosed with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome and Alfie with GABA-transaminase deficiency.

In highly publicized cases that gripped the world, doctors went to court for permission to remove the patients’ ventilators against the wishes of parents who wanted to transfer their sons to foreign hospitals for experimental treatment. 

British judges ruled in favor of the hospitals in both cases, “and the boys died after being removed from life support. Charlie died the next day; Alfie hung on, breathing on his own, for five days,” wrote Cummings McLean.

Both cases evoked a “great outpouring of sympathy for the children and their parents and criticism of the English hospitals involved and the British justice system.”


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