After a UK court ruled that a severely disabled girl should be taken off life support against her parents’ wishes, United States lawmakers are trying to secure permission for her to leave the country to continue her treatment.
Two-year-old Alta Fixsler, whose parents are Israeli citizens, and whose father is a U.S citizen, has been on life support since at Manchester’s Royal Children’s Hospital since birth. Born prematurely, Alta suffered severe brain damaged after being deprived of oxygen and requires assistance to breathe and eat.
The Family Division of the High Court in the UK ruled on May 28 that the hospital may remove Alta from life support. During the hearing, doctors testified that she has “no conscious awareness.”
Her parents, Abraham and Chaya Fixsler, as Hasidic Orthodox Jews, appealed to the court to spare their child’s life.
“We are taught that life is sacred and not only must we preserve life, we also cannot be involved in bringing death closer,” Abraham Fixsler said at the hearing.
“In our faith, it is strictly forbidden to actively shorten a life. The only circumstances under which this might be permissible is where somebody is in constant suffering and pain, but we do not believe that these circumstances apply to Alta,” he said.
The court was not, however, swayed by the argument that the decision to remove Alta from life support and prevent her from receiving treatment elsewhere was a religious freedom violation.
The High Court argued that, “Alta is not of an age, nor in a condition to have knowledge of and to adopt her parents’ values.”
After a group of Republican senators asked President Biden to intervene in the case, state department official Naz Durakoglu wrote Sen. Marco Rubio to say that the Under Secretary for Political Affairs and officials in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs have “raised this case with the government of the United Kingdom.”
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also pressed for the family’s cause. He has written the British ambassador to Washington, Karen Pierce, for the suspension of “health decisions against the wishes of the family.”
According to a report in the Times of Israel, New Jersey’s Phoenix Center for Rehabilitation and Pediatrics is prepared to take the child. Israel has also offered long-term care for Alta, and her parents have requested that she be allowed to travel there.
The judge, Justice Alistair MacDonald, declared at the hearing that “no medical benefit” could be found in Fixsler being taken to Israel.
Alta’s case resembles that of Charlie Gard, whose life his parents unsuccessfully fought to preserve in the face of a 2017 European Court of Human Rights ruling that he be left to die.