The family of a severely disabled five-year-old girl have marked her departure for an Italian hospital after winning an “emotional” life-support treatment battle.
Supporters of Tafida Raqeeb gathered outside the Royal London Hospital on Tuesday morning for a balloon release as the youngster headed to the Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa.
Tafida’s parents won a recent High Court fight with hospital bosses in London, when a judge ruled that the youngster could be moved to Italy.
Multi-coloured balloons, which read “flying to Italy” and featured a picture of Tafida, were released in unison.
Speaking to PA news agency, Tafida’s uncle, Abdul Malik, 36, from Whitechapel, said: “It’s just amazing to see everyone here today – you know we’ve had a long fight from day one.
“Obviously the court issue was overwhelming and emotional but to come back here on the day that Tafida is going out is just an amazing feeling.”
He added: “This wasn’t just our fight but for all the parents so nothing like this happens again, and before anything like this happens again the NHS will think about it carefully and give parents a choice.”
Asked whether they would be visiting Tafida in Italy, he added: “We’re elated that this has happened but at the same time they’re moving away so we’re sad about that, but we will go and visit. We will visit on a regular basis.”
Tafida’s parents, solicitor Shelina Begum and construction consultant Mohammed Raqeeb, of Newham, east London, had said life-support treatment for their daughter should continue.
They also said they should be allowed to move their daughter to a hospital of their choice.
Bosses at the London hospital where Tafida was being treated disagreed.
Specialists at the Royal London Hospital said further treatment would be futile because the youngster had permanent brain damage, was in a minimally conscious state and had no chance of recovery.
Mr Justice MacDonald ruled in favour of Tafida’s parents after analysing evidence at a High Court trial in London.
Tafida’s parents said they thought their daughter had a “quality of life”.
They said they wanted to take Tafida to a country where she would keep getting life-support treatment and where doctors’ views on quality of life were in line with their own.
Lawyers representing Royal London Hospital bosses told Mr Justice MacDonald that blood vessels in Tafida’s brain were “tangled up”.
They said the youngster could not swallow, taste, see, breathe for herself, or “experience touch” in large parts of her body.
The judge was told that all doctors asked for an opinion, including Italian medics and a specialist at Great Ormond Street in London, agreed that Tafida would never come off a ventilator and would always need artificial assistance.
He heard how specialist doctors thought Tafida was “beyond experience”.
Imtiaz Pathan, a 39-year-old worker at the Sick Children’s Trust, said he spent six months with the family and got to know them during that time.
He described them as a “strong and lovely family” who fought “very hard for their daughter”.
“The Sick Children’s Trust provides free accommodation to children who are very sick and the family stayed with us for a while they’re a lovely family, very caring but they were very stressed,” he said.
“The emotional support that we provided for them was essential especially for the mum and dad. Even though they were very strong on their own I think allowing them to let the steam off at times was very needed.”