A grieving father who was dragged by police from his dying daughter’s bedside is launching a foundation in her name.
Rashid Abbasi, 59, and wife Aliya, 52, are fighting for a change of law so that families with children with life-limiting conditions are consulted when it comes to ending their life support.
Their daughter Zainab was diagnosed with a rare and incurable genetic disease after contracting Swine flu aged two.
She was six-years-old when doctors at Great North Children’s Hospital said they would no longer continue her treatment in August 2019.
Shortly after doctors delivered the devastating news, Northumbria Police were called to remove Mr Abbasi, who staff alleged was being violent and abusive.
Police bodycam footage went viral after it showed Mr Abbasi pleading with officers to leave him at his daughter’s bedside before he was held by an officer and strapped to a trolley.
Mr Abbasi, a respiratory expert who has worked for the NHS for over 30 years, can be heard worrying about having a heart attack as he was handcuffed, to which an officer was heard replying, ‘you brought this on yourself’.
The distraught father, who had in fact suffered a heart attack, was later de-arrested and not charged with any crime. Mr Abbasi is now taking legal action against Northumbria Police.
Twenty-eight days after the altercation, Zainab died. But her parents are adamant her death was premature and could have been prevented.
Mr Abbasi told Metro.co.uk: ‘We paid a very big price in terms of the family being traumatised. I had a heart attack while being arrested and I’ve had three procedures since then.
‘We fought, but we couldn’t save Zainab. We want to turn our personal tragedy and loss of Zainab into an opportunity where other kids are saved.’
His wife added: ‘The ongoing effect for our family has been that it has complicated grief. It wasn’t just that we lost Zainab. It was in the way that everything happened, the way we got treated.
‘There was no compassion at all. We weren’t seen as a devoted, loving family who cared for our daughter 24/7. It was awful how we were demonised.’
Mrs Abbasi said several other families, who say they had similar experiences at the hospital, reached out after recognising it from the video.
A year on from Zainab’s death, the couple have created a LaunchGood page to raise funds for the foundation.
They are being supported by Imran Khan QC, a top lawyer who represented Stephen Lawrence’s family after he was brutally murdered in a racist attack that was covered up by police in 1993.
Around 49,000 children in the UK live with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions, according to Together For Short Lives. Some 2,500 die each year from their conditions.
Reflecting on the health inequality’s faced by disabled children like her daughter, Mrs Abbasi added: ‘We want the tragic loss of our beautiful Zainab to do for sick and disabled children what Stephen Lawrence’s tragic death did for black youth.
‘This isn’t about the NHS or doctors themselves. It’s about how individuals are dealing with situations.
‘This is so much more about the other Zainab’s, the 50,000 others who have got life limiting conditions within the country.
‘With the Zainab Abbasi Foundation, we would like long-term for there to be Zainab’s Law which ensures doctors have to take the correct steps so that this doesn’t happen to other families.’
Last month, a spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: ‘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.
‘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.’
A spokesperson for the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We understand that this has been an incredibly difficult and emotional time for the whole family.
‘Our first priority is always to act in the best interests of our patients and staff 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. We also make all possible efforts to ensure this is peaceful and dignified.
‘We have now received an official complaint from the family, which we are investigating, and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.’
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