Couple agree in High Court to allow treatment on acutely ill daughter from hospital

Ian Herbert,North
Thursday 07 March 2002 01:00

The parents of a 12-week-old girl born with half a face were persuaded at a High Court hearing yesterday to agree to further emergency medical treatment on her.

Aziz al-Rafi and Suzanne Taylor had threatened to remove the baby, Maria, from the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, when told at the weekend that she needed an invasive trachaeotomy to assist her breathing.

But after a six-hour hearing before Mr Justice David Bodey at Leeds High Court, the couple agreed to "immediate medical intervention" to deal with her breathing difficulties. The hearing was told that their daughter – born with the rare Goldenhar syndrome – had suffered an acute respiratory arrest on Saturday night when her airway became completely obstructed.

This forced consultants to undertake the pre-trachaeotomy scan, causing the stand-off between the parents and the hospital.

An undertaking not to speak publicly about the case also formed part of the agreement. Mr Rafi, 29, who left Leeds High Court by a back entrance with his wife early yesterday evening, said: "Believe me, I can't comment."

His 25-year-old wife, who has converted to Islam since meeting her husband, a Saudi national, appeared considerably less tense than on Tuesday, when a 24-hour care order on Maria was granted pending yesterday's proceedings.

The court has by no means resolved the issues surrounding Maria's treatment, since its proceedings were concerned only with the question of immediately treating the child's breathing difficulties, which consultants say could kill her if they are not allowed to act.

A press release approved by the Lord Chancellor's Department stated: "In the fullness of time she will need facial reconstructive surgery, following which it is hoped she may have normal life expectancy and normal intelligence, but those are matters for the long-term future.

"It is now the hope of all parties that Maria's case may be given some 'space' so as to enable the necessarily sensitive decisions involved to be taken by parents and the doctors in a calm and orderly manner."

The baby could be given all the reconstructive surgery it needs – which could involve 17 to 20 operations – on the NHS at either Great Ormond Street Hospital in London or the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. But the parents want to remove Maria into private care for £500,000 of treatment to repair her deformities by the time she reaches school.

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