Described by counsel as ‘every parent’s worst nightmare’, the 9th September 2019 marked the first day of the Tafida Raqeeb case.
I set out to attend under the legal bloggers pilot alongside accredited journalists though in fact the first day of the hearing was held in public.
The full hearing is scheduled to last five days. There are two cases in question. First, a judicial review of the decision by Barts Health NHS Trust, made in July this year, to refuse to allow Tafida to be transferred to the IRCCS Instituto Giannina Gaslini Children’s Hospital in Genoa. The second case, due to be heard later in the week, considers an application by the treating medical team for the court’s permission to to withdraw treatment in light of the fact that an agreement between the parties as to Tafida’s best interests has not been reached.
Tafida, who is now five years old, suffered an arterio venous malformation which led to a bleed on the brain on 9th February 2019. She went into cardiac arrest and sustained extensive and irreversible brain injury. Initially Tafida was treated at Kings College Hospital, before being moved to the Royal London Hospital. Medical notes discussed at the hearing also revealed that Tafida has suffered hydrocepgalus and two episodes of sepsis. There have also been two failed attempts to wean Tafida off of ventilation. Clinicians at the Royal London Hospital raised discussion with Tafida’s parents about the possibility of moving her from active treatment to palliative care.
The Tafida Raqeeb case comes only a short time after the high-profile cases of Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and Isaiah Haastrup. Vikram Sachdeva QC, representing the child, argued that this case was different as Tafida is not experiencing any pain or suffering.
Tafida’s parents explored treatment options elsewhere including India and the US and also considered the possibility of moving to Bangladesh, where they also have citizenship. Most notable is the advice provided by the Gaslini hospital in Genoa, who have agreed to treat Tafida. Their position is that: under Italian law, Tafida does not meet the criteria for active withdrawal of treatment and thus cannot be judged to be brain dead; she can be transported safely without undue risk; they may not be able to cure Tafida but can care for her to their best of their capabilities. Expert evidence has shown that Tafida is stable enough to be moved, with only very small risks associated with extubation. Tafida’s family therefore wish for her to be transferred to the Gaslini hospital and have raised the necessary funds. Tafida and her family are practising Muslims and believe that any decision about Tafida’s death is for God and not for mankind.
Vikram Sachdeva QC asserted that, as an EU Citizen, Tafida had a right to be transferred to Italy under freedom of movement and services (Art 56 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union). Thus he submitted that the decision by the Health Trust, that it is in Tafida’s best interests to withdraw treatment and therefore prohibit her parents from moving her, is against her rights under EU Law. He relied on the case of Diane Blood, a landmark case which permitted Mrs Blood to export her dead husbands sperm to Belgium so that she could have fertility treatment.
David Locke QC, representing the parents, stated that a doctor’s job is to provide advice and choices and maintained that doctors have a power but not a duty to apply to court.
The case continues this week. I’ll be attending and writing more about it.