Parents of girl with brain damage denied right to appeal end life support decision

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Parents of girl with brain damage denied right to appeal end life support decision

Alta Fixsler is unable to breathe, eat or drink without medical intervention, and the High Court recently ruled 'there was no prospect of her ever getting better'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Alta Fixsler  (Irwin Mitchell/PA Media)
Alta Fixsler (Irwin Mitchell/PA Media)

The Strictly Orthodox parents of the two year-old girl suffering from irreversible brain damage have been denied the right to appeal a decision made by a High Court judge who ruled that a hospital could stop life support.

Alta Fixsler, from Manchester,  who suffered a brain injury at birth, is unable to breathe, eat or drink without medical intervention.

On May 28, a judge 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.

Doctors at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust had concluded “there was no prospect of her ever getting better”.

Alta’s parents – her mother is Israeli and her father is Israeli-American – had sought permission to appeal the decision.

Lawyers for the family had cited eight grounds of appeal – including the claim that the judge had failed to appreciate the overwhelming important of the child’s religion and culture.

The Israeli background of her family – and the need for her to be in Israel when her life ended so she could be buried speedily.

But in a judgement handed down on July 9, the court of appeal, Lord Justice Baker ruled:”I know that Alta’s devoted parents will be profoundly distressed by the outcome of this appeal.

“Every parent and grandparent – indeed every person – from every community will have the deepest sympathy for them, and for Alta’s loving sibling.

“The strong support they draw from their faith and their community will be a source of consolation, but the emotional pain they are suffering is very hard to endure.

“I understand why they have pursued this appeal and deeply regret that I cannot do more to help them.

“As a judge, however, my duty is to apply the law, and in this case, the law requires me to dismiss the appeal for the reasons I have given.”

Lady Justice Carr, and Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing also expressed agreement with the decision.

The appeal court ruled that a judge was “entitled, and right, to conclude that it is in Alta’s best interests that the life-sustaining treatment be withdrawn.”

The earlier decision had taken into account “the fact that continuing the treatment would impose an additional burden on her” and also recognised ” that because of her condition she would have minimal awareness of family and social relationships and as a result have minimal or no ability to take comfort or enjoyment from those who love her or were around her.”

The High Court judge had also “carefully considered the religious views of principles held by her parents, but concluded that he was not satisfied in the circumstances of this case that those beliefs and principles outweighed the other compelling factors that pointed in the opposite direction.”

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl had been among those to write to the Department of Health in support of an attempt by Israel to transfer Alta to a Tel Aviv hospital to treat her.

Israel’s former President and its Chief Rabbi had been amongst those writing letters of support for the family.

Justice Baker said that while he had “great respect” for the views of those writing letters from Israel,  “Such comment, from whatever source, cannot have an important influence on the outcome of proceedings, which must be determined on the evidence and in accordance with the principles of English law.”

The family could now bring the case before the Supreme Court.

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