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Tafida Raqeeb: Is it Islamically permissible to switch off her life support?

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Royal London Hospital (RLH) say that the progress made by Tafida is insufficient and that her life support should be withdrawn.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.

Sign the Petition

The family’s crowd funding page is here for those who wish to donate.

Donate to the family’s crowdfunding page

Follow and like Tafida’s story on Facebook.

Follow her story on Facebook

Source: www.Islam21c.com

Notes:

About Letters to Islam21c

4 comments

  1. I have another question. The family court trial is on the 9th of September. Is it possible to pray Du’aa’ al-Qunoot for them as it says in Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah (22/271):

    It is proven that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allaah be upon him) used to say Qunoot at times of calamity, praying against the aggressors among the disbelievers, and praying for the week and oppressed Muslims to be saved from the plots and captivity of the kaafirs. End quote.

    If we can’t do anything else then we should at least keep the family in or du’aas especially during the best times to make du’aa. Many Muslims will be fasting over the next few days (for ‘Ashoora) so we could make du’aa for her before we open our fast and if we are waking up anyway to eat for suhoor then we could pray tahajjud salaah and pray for her then too.

    Finally, I think that sometimes life support machine and ‘ventilator’ are used synonymously so to answer the original question, Tafida’s lungs are not strong enough to come off the ventilator.

  2. Also, there’s something not right about how the family have been treated as Muslims. The mother in an interview stated that even before Tafida’s brain stem test was done, she was informed by a paediatric consultant that Tafida was dead based on her experience and according to the mother she said, “You are Muslim therefore why are you keeping a dead child alive?”

  3. I’m not sure but there might be quite a few pieces of equipment that come under ‘life support’ rather than just one machine, for example, in an interview Tafida’s mother mentioned that she is on a ventilator at the lowest setting because she is, for the most part, breathing on her own, but her lungs are not strong enough to come off the ventilator.

    It’s a shame that her ‘gofundme’ page has only raised about £24000. The treatment itself will cost about £100 000 and the legal fees, due to the hospital taking the family to court, are around £400 000 (initially funded by the tax payer but will the family have to pay if they lose?). Furthermore, they’ve only received about 36000 signatures on the petition. I think that Muslims who have a large following on social media and on YouTube should do more to get their followers/fans/subscribers to sign/donate in-shaa Allah.

    Also, can Islam21st Century please find out if it’s possible to donate one’s zakaah to the family. Obviously, we won’t know if it will get used towards the legal fees or the treatment (if she is allowed to be taken to Italy-in-shaa Allah) but would it matter? Do the family come under the heading of ‘masakeen’?

  4. If Tafida can breath spontaneously and the blood pressure and heart rate are not dependent on external support would this not imply that turning off the life support machine is not going to lead to her detriment!?
    Is the transfer to Italy for rehabilitation purposes?

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