Israeli toddler dies after UK court rules against parents’ wishes

The parents of Alta Fixsler had appealed doctors’ views all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel New

Alta Fixsler, a toddler whose Hasidic parents who live in Britain had fought a legal battle all the way to the European Court of Human Rights to leave her on the machines keeping her alive, died Monday after doctors disconnected her according to court orders.

“Sad news, little Alta Fixsler’s life support was turned off this afternoon and she died at the hospice with her parents by her side,” said representatives of Chaya and Abraham Fixsler.

The Orthodox Hamodia news site reported that a quorum of ten Jewish men had first filled Fixsler’s room and sang spiritually uplifting songs before her parents kissed the little girl and allowed the medical staff to disconnect her. She died about an hour and a half later.

The two-and-a-half-year old had suffered irreparable brain damage at birth and could only eat and breathe with the aid of machines. The Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, the hospital system responsible for her care, had long wanted to remove Fixsler from the life support, arguing that it was impossible for her condition to improve and that she was in pain, so she should be allowed to die for humanitarian reasons.

The courts agreed with the hospital, but her parents did not, as Jewish law forbids the disconnection of life support machines in such cases. In appeal after appeal to ever-higher courts, from Great Britain to Europe, their arguments that this move contradicted their religious beliefs came to naught, as did the testimony of doctors who said their child was not feeling pain.

The courts also rejected on allegedly humanitarian grounds the parents’ request to bring Alta to either Israeli or American hospitals that had agreed to care for their child. She could not even be brought home to die, as the legal authorities rejected the family’s final appeal, deciding earlier this month that she had to be disconnected in a children’s hospice.

Political pressure also bore no fruit.

American and Israeli government officials got involved in the case as Fixsler’s mother is Israeli and her father is Israeli-American. Among other efforts, former Israeli president Reuven Rivlin wrote to Crown Prince Charles, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer made several appeals on the parents’ behalf, including to Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month.

He reacted sadly to the news of her death, saying, “I extend my prayers and support for the Fixsler family during this very difficult time…. I continue to believe the policy followed here was wrong on many levels and regret that our multiple, and legally and morally, well-grounded pleas were unheeded by the British authorities.”

MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism), who also tried to help the Fixslers, compared the court decision to that of “Sodom and Gomorrah,” cities cited in the Bible that were infamous for having made cruelty legal and thus deserving of Divine destruction.

“We tried to appeal to presidents, ministers, jurists and all who have a human heart. But no one was able to withstand the legal force of the ‘religion of compassion,’” he said.

“The ruling of the British court to execute a tormented girl, out of ‘compassion’, opens up a hell for all the terminally ill, the poor, and anyone who has no money and power to defend against his ‘merciful’ killers,” he added.

An American rabbi who had lobbied strongly on Fixsler’s behalf, Moshe Niederman, also took issue with the medical system that had opposed the parents.

“Instead of following the Hippocratic oath to ‘do no harm or injustice’ to their patients, doctors today took an action that resulted in their patient’s death,” he told Hamodia. “This utter travesty against this helpless, pure, lovely child, will never be forgotten. A country that supposedly doesn’t have capital punishment, today enacted a death penalty couched in fancy legalese.”

Seven hundred people attended Fixsler’s funeral Monday evening in the study hall of the Belzer Hasidim in Manchester. She is to be buried Tuesday in Israel.