Fate of hospitalized British Jewish toddler to be decided Wednesday

British court ordered 2-year-old Alta Fixsler removed from life support, pending hearing; her parents want to transfer her to Jerusalem for treatment, against hospital’s wishes

Alta Fixsler lies in hospital in Manchester, England, in 2019. (Courtesy of the family via JTA)
Alta Fixsler lies in hospital in Manchester, England, in 2019. (Courtesy of the family via JTA)

The fate of a 2-year-old Jewish girl on life support in England could be decided at a court hearing on Wednesday.

Alta Fixsler of Manchester is gravely ill, due to natal complications, and has been on life support since birth. On May 28, the High Court of London ruled that ending Alta’s life is in her best interest, as medical experts do not believe she has a chance of recovering or feeling pleasure. They believe she can sense discomfort.

Her parents said that taking their daughter off life support would contradict their Jewish faith. Judaism commands the preservation of human life and generally forbids actions to end it, however, rabbis, including Orthodox ones, have had diverging opinions on taking seemingly incurable patients off life support.

In the ruling, Justice Alistair MacDonald rejected a petition by the girl’s parents, who belong to Manchester’s ultra-Orthodox community, to have her moved to a hospital in Jerusalem.

More than 40,000 people have signed a petition urging British authorities not to stop life support.

“Alta’s family want her to be transferred to an Israeli hospital on religious and ethical grounds,” the online petition reads.

The move has been delayed pending the hearing this week.

The parents had petitioned the court after doctors at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which operates the hospital where Fixsler is being cared for, told them that their daughter should be taken off life support and allowed to die.

The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where Alta Fixsler has been treated since her birth. (Wikimedia Commons)

The hospital declined to have the girl discharged, leading to the legal fight.

In early June, President Reuven Rivlin sent a letter to Prince Charles of England asking him to intervene in the case. Rivlin requested his intervention “on a matter of grave and urgent humanitarian importance.”

“It is the fervent wish of her parents, who are devoutly religious Jews and Israeli citizens, that their daughter be brought to Israel,” Rivlin wrote. “Their religious beliefs directly oppose ceasing medical treatment that could extend her life and have made arrangements for her safe transfer and continued treatment in Israel.”

Earlier, then-health minister Yuli Edelstein appealed to his British counterpart to intervene. Edelstein wrote a letter to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock asking him to allow Fixsler’s transfer to Israel and prevent her life support from being removed.

The letter noted that Fixsler’s parents are “Orthodox Jews and Israeli citizens, who live their lives according to Jewish law, and are interested in transferring Alta to one of two Israeli hospitals that are prepared to treat her.”

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