Campaigners praise 'victory for human life' after court rules brain damaged girl can go to Italy for treatment

A High Court ruled that Tafida Raqeeb could be transferred to an Italian hospital for further treatment(Photo: family handout)

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children has welcomed the High Court's decision to allow a brain damaged girl to travel to Italy for treatment. 

Medical experts had argued that Tafida Raqeeb's life support should be switched off because she was showing no signs of responding and had little prospect of recovery. 

The 5-year-old has been on ventilation at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel since suffering a traumatic brain injury in February.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which manages the hospital, had asked the court to rule that turning off the life support was in her best interests. 

After the court's surprise ruling in their favour, Tafida's parents, Shelina Begum, 39, and Mohammed Raqeeb, 45, now plan to transfer her to the Gaslini children's hospital in Genoa within the next 10 days.  

Commenting on the verdict, Dr Anthony McCarthy, SPUC Director of Research, said: "Our hearts go out to Tafida and her parents, whose precious daughter has been allowed to live.

"The court ruling sends an important message to the doctors at the Royal London Hospital that their view of Tafida's life was wrong.

"It has always been clear that ventilation and transferring Tafida to Italy would not in fact have been harmful and any costs would not have fallen on the NHS." 

He said that the trust's decision to appeal the verdict "shows that elements of the medical profession are sticking to the sinister path on which the most basic rights of citizens have been repeatedly overturned by those on high". 

Dr McCarthy continued: "Tafida's parents were exercising their right to make decisions about their child. If their daughter would have been significantly harmed or put at risk by the journey to Italy or by continued ventilation, the State could have rightly intervened.

"Happily today we have seen a just resolution. Mr and Mrs Raqeeb's reasonable request to do the best they could for their child has been upheld, albeit with the prospect of further anguish and struggle to protect Tafida's life. We wish these loving and valiant parents every success in caring for their child."

Bishop John Sherrington, Lead Bishop for Life Issues for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, also welcomed the High Court's ruling, saying that it had "taken account of the wishes of Tafida's parents and their innate urge to do all they can to help their daughter in what are truly tragic circumstances".

"The heart-breaking illness of Tafida Raqeeb and the distress which the illness of a child causes parents touches the hearts of many people," he said. 

"I trust that all the medical professionals will cooperate to continue to give her the best possible care and appropriate treatment. Such international cooperation is essential good practice in the care of tragically difficult lives. I will keep these professionals in my prayers.

"I, along with many others, have held this family in my prayers and will continue to pray that Tafida and her parents are strengthened by the presence and mercy of God, and by the support of all who know and love her."