Tafida Raqeeb, from East London, was a healthy four-year-old girl, until a blood vessel in her brain suddenly ruptured on the 9th of February 2019. Following her initial neurosurgical procedure, she was given only 24 hours to live. However, 7 months on and despite being on a ventilator, Tafida has been showing steady signs of progress. She now has a sleep-wake cycle, some movement in her limbs, the ability to focus her gaze, and is able to react to stimuli such as touch and temperature. Tafida has grown stronger, and her need for mechanical ventilation has decreased to the most minimal settings.
Despite this, doctors at the Royal London Hospital (RLH) say that the progress made by Tafida is insufficient and that her life support should be withdrawn. A spokeswoman for the Barts Health NHS Trust said:
“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.’’
The trust has taken the matter to the high court, seeking permission to withdraw life-sustaining treatment.
Meanwhile, Tafida’s parents have found a hospital in Italy that is willing to continue treatment. A specialist medical team from the Gaslini Children’s Hospital assessed Tafida and concluded that “there is [brain] damage but she is not [in] end of life [care].” The hospital confirmed that it is prepared to carry on treatment, and in time move her to a rehabilitation centre. In spite of this hope, the RLH remain adamant to withdraw treatment and have refused to discharge Tafida, maintaining that it is in her ‘best interest’ to stop living. Subsequently, Tafida’s parents were left with no choice but to launch a legal bid to obtain permission to take her to the Gaslini Children’s Hospital.
The RLH will now spend an estimated £400,000 of taxpayer money to get permission to end Tafida’s life. Her parents, on the other hand, will privately fund the transfer and treatment in Italy. Tafida’s parents have set up a crowdfunding page seeking to raise £400,000 for legal fees, hospital transfer, and treatment in Italy. On the crowdfunding page, the family wrote:
“We believe Tafida should be given the chance of life and the opportunity to recover, and the Gaslini Children’s Hospital shares our opinion. Doctors there are willing to treat Tafida but the Royal London Hospital is trying to stop us, and is thereby denying our wishes and surely our right as parents to act in what we know to be the best interests of our beloved daughter.”
The decision made by doctors at the RLH is not one that Tafida’s parents agree with, based on her continuous progress. It is also strongly based on the fact that Tafida has not been medically declared as brainstem dead. During the brainstem death test carried out by doctors, Tafida demonstrated her ability to breathe on her own, an indication that she is not brainstem dead. In addition to this, her heart and other essential organs are functioning optimally, requiring minimal medication, and she is independently able to regulate her heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
According to Islamic law, death is defined by either the cessation of the heartbeat or irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brainstem. Based on this definition, scholarly consensus finds it impermissible to switch off Tafida’s life support.
Additionally, ‘best interest’, ‘quality of life’, and ‘medical morals and ethics’ cannot be taken into consideration according to Islamic law when the withdrawal of life support remains fundamentally impermissible. The removal of life support from a human being who is alive would be considered as killing them.
Tafida’s mother, Shelina Begum, obtained a fatwa – a ruling in Islamic law – from the Islamic Council of Europe, which described the ordeal as a “great sin” and “absolutely impermissible” for anyone to consent to the removal of her life support.
Watch Sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad discuss Tafida’s case below:
Please help stop this injustice by signing the petition requesting The Royal London Hospital RLH to release Tafida Raqeeb for treatment in Italy.
The family’s crowd funding page is here for those who wish to donate.
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