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Alta Fixsler dies in hospice

Alta Fixsler / EWTN News In Depth / Family Photo

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 23, 2021 / 13:36 pm (CNA).

Alta Fixsler, the two-year-old British girl whose parents fought to keep on life support, died October 18 after her life support was withdrawn. 

“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 a statement from a representative for her parents, Chaya and Abraham Fixsler. 

Alta reportedly lived for over an hour once the machines were removed. 

Due to a severe brain injury suffered at birth, Fixsler was unable to eat or breathe without assistance and had spent her entire life at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Her parents, Hasidic Jews, objected to removing her from life support and fought to continue her care. 

Doctors had previously believed that Fixsler would only live for hours after her birth due to the severity of the injury. 

The Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which was responsible for her care, requested permission in May to remove Fixsler’s life support.

Fixsler’s case drew international attention as her parents sought to move her from the hospital in Manchester to receive experimental treatment elsewhere. 

A spokesperson for the Fixslers expressed disappointment at the October court decision that would eventually result in Alta’s death, and called for legislation to protect the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children. 

“Despite our best efforts and deep discussions to continue Alta’s critical care and give her the best possible quality of life, we are distraught at the decision taken by the court to end her life,” said the spokesperson. 

“We strongly believe that making life-changing decisions on behalf of children ought to be a parental right and it is important that we open up the debate around this. We call on the government to look at the current legislation and change it.”

Her father, who is a citizen of both the United States and Israel, was granted a visa for his daughter in an attempt to take her to the United States for medical care. They were not permitted to leave the hospital. Her mother is also an Israeli citizen. 

The then-president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, appealed to Prince Charles in June, saying her situation was “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,” said Rivlin. “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.”

In May, the British High Court ruled against the Fixslers, saying that she should be receiving palliative care and have her life support withdrawn. The High Court said that “Alta is not of an age, nor in a condition to have knowledge of and to adopt her parents’ values.” 

In Judaism, any child born to a Jewish mother is automatically considered to be Jewish. 

Both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s ruling that Alta’s life support should be removed, as did the European Court of Human Rights. Judges said that moving her from the hospital would bring “no medical benefit” and was risky. 

After losing their appeals, the Fixslers asked if they could take their daughter out of the hospital to die at their home. That, too, was denied, and a judge ruled that she was to die in a children’s hospice. 

A hospice, said the judge, “best accommodates Alta’s welfare need for specialist care at the end of her life under a reliable, safe and sustainable system of high calibre care protected from disruption, whilst allowing, in so far as possible and consistent with Alta’s best interests, the family and the community to perform the sacred religious obligations of the Orthodox Jewish faith.”

Fixsler will reportedly be buried in Israel.