A two-year-old Jewish girl born with severe brain damage has died after she was taken off life support despite her parents’ objections.
Alta Fixsler from Manchester had serious natal complications that made her dependent on life support from birth.
Following the decision, there was anger from sections of the Charedi community who had been campaigning for her to be transferred to the United States or Israel for further medical care. One rabbi accused the UK of having “enacted a death penalty couched in fancy legalese.”
When medical authorities at the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, where she was treated, wanted to take her off life support, her parents, who are Charedi, took the medical authorities to court, claiming that taking the child off life support would violate their religious principles.
Chaya and Abraham Fixsler said that taking their daughter off life support would contradict their Jewish faith, because it commands the preservation of human life and generally forbids actions to end it. Some rabbis, including Orthodox ones, have diverging opinions on removing patients with incurable ailments off life support.
The High Court ruled in May that ending Alta’s life would be in her best interest, as medical experts said she felt discomfort but could not recover or feel pleasure.
A judge then rejected a petition by the girl’s parents to have her moved to a hospital in Jerusalem. Attempts to make Alta a US citizen did not succeed in time to prevent her death, with even American Jewish New York Senator Chuck Schumer intervening in a bid to get her to the US. Her parents also lost a court battle to have her taken home to end her life.
Sky News quoted a spokesperson for the family who announced Alta’s death Monday evening: “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.”
There was, however, anger in some sections of the Charedi community. Rabbi Moshe Dovid Niederman of the UJO of Williamsburg, NY, told Hamodia it was “especially devastating that the U.K. rejected the pleas from both the US. and Israel… to allow Alta to be sent to one of those countries, which were willing to provided her care. Why was this chance for the child to live denied?”
Calling the decision an “utter travesty” he said the UK was a “country that supposedly doesn’t have capital punishment, today enacted a death penalty couched in fancy legalese.”
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said: “We mourn the tragic loss of Alta Fixsler. We wish her parents Chayim Aruchim – a long life – and that they should know no more sorrow in the years ahead.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.