By Grahame Anderson
A grieving couple are taking legal action after being dragged away from the hospital bed of their dying daughter by police last year.
Recently released video footage from a Northern hospital dating back to last August has shown police violently dragging away 59-year-old hospital consultant Rashid Abbasi from his dying six-year-old daughter. It comes at a time when extreme physical force used against those from a BAME background is being debated across the UK
The disturbing images captured on a police body camera clearly show Mr Abbasi, having both his legs and ankles strapped together in order to wheel him away from his daughter after her life support was withdrawn. Officers grabbed his wife Aliya, a former doctor from behind pulling her from the bedside as she fell onto the floor screaming.
When the officers approached the couple Mrs Abbasi suggested the officers sit and talk to her husband at the bedside. She pleaded with them to show ‘compassion’, saying: ‘We were just informed they were going to take the tube out of our daughter.’ In fact, it was just half an hour after being given the news by medical staff, the police intervened.
Within five minutes however, one officer gave Mr Abbasi a final warning before wrenching him away from his daughter. Another held his neck as he was dragged away from the bedside still in his chair. As he fell to the floor the NHS employee of 30 years who suffers from serious heart problems, complained of ‘chest pain’, only to be told: ‘You’ve brought this on yourself.’
Another officer said: ‘We’ll take you to A&E, that’s absolutely fine.’ ‘Please come with us and act responsibly, you’re an adult, you’re an educated person.’
They refused to take medication out of his pocket to help with the pain despite several cries for help. Officers claimed Mr Abbasi kicked and bit them during the struggle.
Dr Abbasi denies he was ever violent or abusive at any time telling us the police de-arrested him after he had a heart attack. He underwent a procedure the following day.
The NHS trust applied to the High Court for permission to take Zainab off the ventilator, but in mid-September, just three days before the hearing was due to start, she passed away.
In an earlier incident four police officers and two security guards gathered at Zainab’s bedside where devastated parents and one of their sons were comforting her. This after a consultant had attempted to stop the respiratory expert going to his daughters bedside.
Hospital staff had also attempted to hand the couple a letter restricting Mr Abbasi’s visiting hours amid claims staff felt ‘threatened and intimidated’ by him.
The youngster had suffered from respiratory problems and a rare genetic illness called Niemann-Pick disease. This meant she was likely to die during childhood. Her parents had argued for her to be treated with steroids instead of having life support withdrawn. This had proved to be correct when her condition improved. They believed given the right care their daughter would survive after going into hospital in July 2019.
A month later doctors informed them Zainab was dying and the next steps would involve taking her off a ventilator. Even though Rashid and Aliya pleaded for further tests, they were told Zainab had to begin palliative care immediately. Rashid told them they’d need to get a court order to do so. Both parents were told they ‘would never come to terms with this.’
The couple had to fight for partial reporting restrictions to be lifted over the incident.
Dr Abbas said: “My wife and I are no strangers to the difficult conversations around child palliative care. We are both qualified doctors, and I have been a consultant in respiratory medicine for 24 years in a neighbouring NHS trust to the one I entrusted with my daughter’s life. When she was two years old, Zainab was diagnosed with a rare and incurable genetic disease. For years afterwards, there was near constant pressure from doctors to switch off life support whenever she was unwell.
As a doctor, it is my job to save lives. But due to pressure on NHS resources, too often doctors are shortening, rather than prolonging, lives. As a physician, a father and a human being, I could not stand by when they told us they had decided to ‘let her go now’.
I want NHS bosses and the police to understand that every life is worth protecting.
Asian Sunday asked if it was normal practice to drag an individual away in such circumstances? – Had a complaint been made or the event investigated further? And what was the force’s response to the video footage?
A spokesperson for Northumbria Police told me: “We can confirm that on August 19, 2019, we responded to a call from the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital, Newcastle, of a man being violent and abusive towards staff and that he had assaulted a consultant.
“While we recognised this was a very distressing time for him and his family, our duty was to ensure the safety of all those present.
“The 58-year-old was arrested on suspicion of breach of the peace. He was subsequently also arrested on suspicion of assaulting police officers.
“Due to the nature of the incident, it was necessary to detain the man and when he complained of feeling unwell he was taken for treatment as soon as was possible.
“One officer also attended Accident and Emergency for treatment.
“We can confirm police have not pursued any further action against the individual.
“In the limited time we have been given to look into this, we have reviewed the body worn footage from the incident which sets out a very different picture to the limited version of events which have been presented to us.
“We can confirm that we have not received a complaint in relation to this incident. We are, however, in the process of reviewing a civil claim, so it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”
Dr Abbasi has said he wants justice for Zainab and wants to make sure this never happens to anyone again. He added: “We are living a real hell today, and we want the whole world to see what happened at the bedside of a dying six-year-old child. I want the world to see so that it is not allowed to happen any more.”
Asian Sunday has obtained this statement from The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who requested we publish it in full. It says: “We would like to offer our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family at this extremely distressing time.
“Our first priority is always to act in the best interests of our patients. Our clinical teams work hard with young patients and their families to provide optimal care for their individual needs and to reach agreement on the best treatment.
“When disagreements about clinical care happen, we do everything we can to listen, understand and provide support during what are very difficult and sensitive circumstances. This involves the wider clinical team, consideration with our medical ethics team, and also obtaining second and third opinions from independent expert clinicians from other Trusts.
“When these routes have been exhausted, a High Court process exists to provide an independent judgment by a Specialist Judge who will hear evidence from everyone involved including experts and the system requires, and arranges, separate representation for the child.
“On very rare occasions, when there is a risk to the safety of any of the patients in our care, to relatives, visitors or to our staff – or obstruction or interference with the delivery of care and treatment – it is necessary for us to seek help from our security staff or the police.
“We must stress that this action is never taken lightly. It is essential that we maintain a safe and secure environment for our patients and families, particularly on intensive care units where we are caring for very sick and vulnerable patients.
“Our staff always go to strenuous lengths to ensure that families’ wishes are respected, and that they are supported as they approach the end of their child’s life and make all possible efforts to ensure this is peaceful and dignified.
“We understand that this has been an incredibly difficult time for the whole family.”
They also told me it has been suggested in the media race was a factor in the treatment of Mr and Mrs Abbasi’s daughter – this they categorically deny.