European Court rules hospital can disconnect Jewish toddler from life-support machine

The parents of Alta Fixsler have lost numerous appeals in Great Britain for their religious right to keep their daughter on life support.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a religious Jewish family’s last of many appeals to keep their British toddler on life support machines against doctors’ considered opinion that she should be disconnected.

By doing so, they supported the May 28th ruling of the High Court of London that sided with the Manchester Royal Children’s Hospital that has been caring for two-year-old Alta Fixsler since complications during birth left her with irreparable brain damage. Her doctors have testified that they believe she is in persistent pain, has no chance of recovery, and that it is in her best interests to let her die.

Her hasidic parents have argued that Jewish law dictates that it is forbidden to pull the plug, and they have neurologists who reject the hospital’s contention that their daughter is feeling pain.

Their lawyer, David Foster, said on Wednesday that their religious beliefs had “not been adequately taken into account.” He also said that he had argued in court that “Alta would feel no more or less pain being transported to a hospital in Israel than she would lying in a bed in Manchester but her chance of further treatment has been denied her regardless.”

The parents are Israeli citizens, and two hospitals in Israel have already agreed to treat the little girl. Former health minister Yuli Edelstein appealed to his British counterpart in June to allow her to travel to receive this palliative care. Israel’s former president, Reuven Rivlin, also asked for Crown Prince Charles to intervene in this “matter of grave and urgent humanitarian importance.”

“It would be a tragedy if these parents’ wishes could not be accommodated in a way that respects both the law and their religious beliefs,” Rivlin wrote.

Fixsler’s father is an American citizen as well, and there are hospitals in the U.S. that have also agreed to admit the child.

The highest political echelon in America has heard of the case. Several Republican senators have asked President Joe Biden to intercede with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the matter. Senate Majority leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), who is Jewish, got involved some six weeks ago, sending a personal appeal to the UK’s U.S. ambassador.

“I urge that all health decisions that are against the wishes of the family be suspended until the citizenship process is complete and Alta can travel to the US with her” father, he wrote.

Two weeks ago, he secured the necessary American visa, and so now Alta has two countries willing to take her in, if the British authorities would allow her to travel, no matter the court’s decision.

To date, tens of thousands have signed a petition asking that Alta not be disconnected from her ventilator. Some $400,000 has also been raised to cover her travel and care expenses.