Alta Fixsler/ EWTN News In Depth / Family Photo
The Fixsler family is fighting to keep their 2-year-old daughter, Alta, on life support in the UK But the Hasidic Jewish family is facing one court defeat after another in what a family friend calls a “devastating” situation.
“At any time, the hospital can start a 72-hour clock to discontinue the care for Alta,” Yossi Gestetner, a family friend and spokesperson for the Fixslers, told EWTN News In Depth on Aug. 6.
Since birth, little Alta has received life-sustaining care as a patient at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Born eight weeks premature in Manchester, England, she suffered a severe hypoxic-ischemic brain injury at birth.
The legal battle over her life began in May when Manchester University National Health Service Foundation Trust petitioned the British High Court for permission to remove her life support. The trust argued that Alta didn’t have quality of life and was experiencing pain.
Others disagreed. Multiple pediatric neurologists said that Alta did not feel pain. But the courts still sided against the Fixsler family, even when they turned to the UK Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and the European Court of Human Rights.
“It’s obviously very, very difficult for the parents to process what has been happening over the last few weeks,” Gestetner said.
He criticized the courts for “essentially saying that parents do not have the right” to decide what is in the best interest of their own child. As court after court rules that the National Health Service (NHS) can decide little Alta’s fate, “it is devastating,” he said.
“It’s like (the UK government has) control, literal control on people’s medical decisions, especially once the person is within a medical institution and especially if it’s the case of a child,” he cautioned.
While Alta’s parents moved to the UK in 2014, they are Israeli citizens. Her father is also a U.S. citizen. As Orthodox Hasidic Jews, Abraham and Chaya Fixsler want to keep Alta on life support, in accordance with their faith and Israeli law.
“Parents, whether on their own device or whether influenced by their religious teachings, have the right and responsibility to try to find the best care,” Gestetner stressed.
The Fixslers want to transfer their daughter to a hospital abroad and hospitals in both Israel and the United States have offered their services. But the UK court system has ruled that there is no medical benefit to moving Alta and that it would only cause her more pain. Gestetner disagreed.
Medical professionals, he said, “know how to do that in a careful and delicate way.” Pain is an “interesting reasoning, to prohibit trying to care for Alta,” especially when medical professionals in the U.S. and in Israel say that her condition could potentially improve, he said.
“I don’t think anyone credible would argue that a facility in Manchester – no offense to the professionalism of the staff – but nobody would think that a local institution in Manchester has the same capabilities as some of the experts and institutions here in the U.S. or over in Israel,” he urged.
Human-rights figures and politicians are speaking out for Alta, including Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who worked to obtain a U.S. visa for the toddler. Gestetner recognized that both Democrats and Republicans are attempting to help Alta.
“I think a lot of senators who are not necessarily ‘pro-life’ understand the basic concept of” parental rights, he stressed.