Royal London Hospital. Wikimedia Commons.

Bishop: Italian doctors should get chance to help 5-year-old London girl

By  Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service
  • July 22, 2019

MANCHESTER, England -- Italian medics should be given a chance to help a London girl who British doctors believe should die, a bishop said.

Tafida Raqeeb, 5, collapsed at home Feb. 9 after she developed a blood clot on her brain; she has been in a coma since.

In June, doctors from The Royal London Hospital informed Shelina Begum and Mohammed Raqeeb, the child's parents, that they could not treat her successfully and it would be in their daughter's "best interests" for artificial nutrition and hydration to be withdrawn so she would die.

But the parents now want to take Tafida to the Gaslini Children's Hospital in Genoa, Italy, where doctors have expressed the view that they might be able to bring the girl out of the coma within months.

Royal London Hospital refused permission to transfer the child, however, so the parents filed a legal challenge against the decision at the High Court July 16. The judge deferred the hearing until July 22.

Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster, the lead bishop for life issues for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, issued a statement July 18 to say that Italian doctors should be given a chance to save the child's life.

"I trust that the doctors from the Gaslini Children's Hospital in Genoa will be given time and opportunity to come to a well-informed view and to share their prognosis with their colleagues here in London," the bishop said. "Such international cooperation is essential good practice in the care of tragically difficult lives."

He continued: "Difficult dilemmas have to be faced. In that process, I hope that all due weight will be given to the wishes of her parents, while also respecting the clinical judgement of the doctors caring for her. Those of us not in possession of all the relevant information might best be reserved in our judgment."

A statement issued by Barts Health NHS Trust, which controls the hospital, said: "This is a sad situation, in which our teams continue to work very closely with the family to include them and offer our support.

"Our expert clinicians caring for the child consider, in discussion with additional medical experts from specialist centers outside of the trust, that further medical treatment would not improve the child's condition and would not be in the child's best interests," said the statement, which was sent by email to CNS July 19. "We recognize how difficult this is for all involved."

The case bears resemblances to that of Charlie Gard, whose parents were denied permission to take him to the U.S. for experimental treatment they believe might have saved his life. The boy died in July 2017 without being allowed to leave the U.K.

Similarly, the parents of Alfie Evans were in 2018 denied permission to remove him from the Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool despite an offer of care from the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome.

The Italian government granted citizenship to the boy so he could be evacuated by a waiting air ambulance but that same day Alfie, who had a severe degenerative brain condition, was taken off his ventilator and later died.

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