Her parents hailed the ‘big step’ and revealed their daughter is now able to breathe on her own.
Defying her NHS prognosis, she has been moved to her own room in a rehabilitation unit and her delighted mother Shelina Begum told the Mail: ‘Her recovery starts today.’
Three months ago, Tafida’s life hung in the balance as British doctors asked the High Court to sanction her life-support being switched off, saying she had no hope of recovery and it would be kinder to let her die.
Mother Shelina Raqeeb at the bedside of her daughter Tafida at the Gaslini Hospital, Gerona, Italy
Tafida’s parents won a High Court battle which allowed them to take the little girl to Italy for treatment
Shelima Begum, mother of Tafida Raqeeb, and doctor Paolo Morelli director of reability center Giannina Gaslini, doctor Andrea Moscatelli responsible of Intensive Care at the Giannina Gaslini Institute
But in a landmark legal victory that stunned the medical profession, the judge sided with the little girl’s family – citing ‘the sanctity of life’ – and allowed them to transfer her to the Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa.
Yesterday, doctors in the Italian port city announced Tafida had made enough progress to be moved from intensive care to a private room in the rehabilitation unit.
Miss Begum said: ‘It shows that the medical opinion that was placed before the court in the UK is being proved wrong – by Tafida herself.’
Tafida’s (pictured, before she was ill) parents thought life-support treatment should continue and asked to move their daughter to a hospital of their choice
The youngster’s solicitor mother Shelina Begum, 39, and father Mohammed Raqeeb, 45, a construction consultant
Why did doctors at the Royal London think Tafida should be allowed to die?
Tafida has, all the doctors agree, suffered irreversible brain damage. She will almost certainly need to be kept alive by a ventilator for the rest of her life and medics believe she has – at best – a minimal level of awareness.
What law says a judge can decide whether or not a child should live?
The test case decision that first cleared doctors to let patients die was made by the Law Lords in 1993. Judges said life support should be removed from 22-year-old Tony Bland, a Liverpool fan who suffered brain damage at Hillsborough football stadium in 1989. Since then a law passed by Tony Blair in 2005 has given legal force to ‘living wills’ in which people can demand to die. Last year, the Supreme Court said that doctors may allow an incapacitated patient to die without referring the case to a judge – if the patient’s family agree.
Do courts usually rule that it is in a severely disabled child’s best interests to die?
Doctors who wish to end a patient’s life get the backing of the courts in the great majority of cases. Two notable recent defeats for families desperate to save a beloved baby were those of Charlie Gard, from London, who had a progressive genetic disorder, and Alfie Evans, from Liverpool, who had a brain disorder.
Why did the judge rule in favour of Tafida’s family?
Mr Justice MacDonald gave weight to the possibility, put forward by Italian doctors, that Tafida might eventually be able to go home to live on a ventilator. In such circumstances Tafida might live for another ten or 20 years. The judge also sympathised with the parents’ view that Tafida was capable of movement, of recognising her mother’s voice – and was in no pain. He also cited Tafida’s parents’ strong Islamic religious belief.
Will this be a precedent?
The decision to give weight to the parents’ optimistic outlook and the recognition of the importance of their religious faith will give hope to other parents. But the ruling that Tafida has a right to treatment in Italy depended on EU freedom of movement laws – which may disappear from the statute books if Brexit happens at the end of the month.
Will the Tafida outcome influence similar cases?
Mr Justice MacDonald’s ruling could affect cases where parents who are Jehovah’s Witnesses try to prevent a child having a blood transfusion. But the High Court judgment is closely tied to the specific plight of Tafida and her family. A future Appeal or Supreme Court case would be needed to establish whether courts should give more say to parents.
The 39-year-old solicitor and her construction consultant husband Mohammed Raqeeb, 45, have been living in Genoa to keep a vigil at her bedside.
Their reception-year daughter, of Newham, East London, was sent into a coma in February last year by a blood vessel bursting in her brain.
Doctors at the Royal London Hospital said she was beyond hope. The Italian doctors are not offering a cure – just more time, to see if Tafida emerges from her condition.
Miss Begum said: ‘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.’
She said Tafida’s artificial ventilator, which helps her breathe, was being gradually withdrawn.
‘They are trying to ween Tafida off the ventilator.
‘She is being taken off for two or three hours a day, so she can breathe by herself,’ she said.
‘She has also come off the catheter. She is in control of her urinary function now.
‘All these things were not going to happen in the UK.’ Dr Andrea Moscatelli, head of the neurological department, said Tafida had been given a tracheostomy – where an opening is made in the neck to place a tube directly into the windpipe – to make it easier for her to breathe on her own.
She also underwent a procedure to ease pressure on her brain and to stabilise her breathing, he said, adding: ‘Our task was to support the vital functions of Tafida, with the aim of making it possible for the family to take care of her at home.’
The hospital does not want new photos of Tafida to be released at this time, her mother said.
But she added: ‘If anyone could see Tafida now, they would be shocked. There are no tubes in her nose any more, and she is always opening her eyes.
‘She has got a big room in the rehabilitation unit. It has equipment for physiotherapy and there is a hydrotherapy pool in the unit. Basically, her recovery starts today – with all these things that she couldn’t do before.
‘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.
‘We have always said that time is what Tafida needs. We will just have to continue waiting to see what happens now.’
Paolo Petralia, general manager of the hospital, said: ‘We are 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.’
Her parents have spent eight months camping out beside her and have described the ‘agony’ of every-day as their daughter has only a one per cent chance of living
Tafida (pictured), an outwardly healthy, happy little girl who had just started school, was left brain damaged in February when a blood vessel burst in her brain