Israel asks Matt Hancock to let brain-damaged girl, two, be treated in their hospitals

Israel has appealed to Matt Hancock to allow a two-year-old suffering from irreversible brain damage to be treated in Tel Aviv.

The plea comes after UK doctors won permission to switch off life support treatment against the wishes of the girl’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish parents. 

Alta Fixsler was born in the UK and suffered brain damage during birth. She has been hooked up to a ventilator at the Royal Children’s Hospital ever since, with her doctors saying that she cannot breathe, eat or drink without sophisticated medical treatment.

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust – which has responsibility for her care – asked a High Court judge to decide whether it is in Alta’s best interests to withdraw life-sustaining treatment and put her on a palliative care regime.

Lawyers representing the trust told the court that there is ‘no prospect of her ever getting better’. 

Her parents say their faith means they cannot agree to steps which would lead to her death and want to take her to a hospital in Israel, where they are citizens.

Alta Fixsler (pictured) suffered a severe brain injury at birth and her doctors say she cannot breathe, eat or drink without sophisticated medical treatment

Last month, a High Court judge ruled that it was ‘in Alta’s best interests for the treatment that is currently sustaining her precious life now to be withdrawn’.

However, Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has now appealed to the British government through his counterpart, Matt Hancock, to reverse the decision.

‘I was informed of the request of Mr Avraham Fixsler and Mrs Chaya Fixsler, parents of Alta Fixsler, who was born with a rare brain impairment and has been hospitalised since her birth at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Manchester (RMCH).

‘The hospital has petitioned the Supreme Court for permission to disconnect Alta from the device to which she is connected, which will result in her death.

‘According to a legal opinion attached to the request on behalf of the family members, and in our opinion acceptable, according to Israeli law in circumstances where the parents oppose the cessation of medical treatment that could lead to the child’s death and that life expectancy exceeds six months – medical treatment must not cease.

‘Alta’s parents are Orthodox Jews and Israeli citizens, living their lives according to Hebrew law, and they are interested in transferring Alta to one of the two hospitals in Israel that have expressed a willingness to treat her. I would appreciate if you could help the Fixsler family bring Alta further treatment in Israel.’       

The High Court’s current position is that a transfer to hospital in Israel should be refused on the grounds that Alta’s suffering should not be prolonged. 

Alta’s parents will find out by tomorrow if they are allowed to appeal the High Court’s decision.  

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (left) has appealed to the British government through his counterpart, Matt Hancock (right), to reverse a High Court decision to allow doctors to remove Alta from life support

Speaking before the High Court decision, the family’s barrister Victoria Butler-Cole QC said: ‘They would like her to be treated in Israel by doctors who share their religious beliefs and ethical framework, and struggle to understand why the trust will not agree to this.

‘Hospitals in Israel are willing to accept Alta, the risks of transfer are very low, and the costs of transporting Alta safely will be met.

‘The parents implore the trust to reconsider their position.’

But Mr Justice MacDonald said taking the young girl to Israel for treatment to continue there would ‘expose Alta to further pain and discomfort during the course of transfer for no medical benefit in circumstances where all parties accept that the treatment options now available for Alta provide no prospect of recovery’.

The judge added: ‘The parents cannot be criticised for having reached a different decision informed by the religious laws that govern their way of life.

‘But applying the secular legal principles that I must, and according due respect to the deeply held religious convictions of the parents, I cannot agree with their assessment and am required to act accordingly.’

Mr Justice MacDonald concluded: ‘It is not in the best interests of Alta for life-sustaining medical treatment to be continued, and […] it is in her best interests for a palliative care regime to be implemented.’

Alta suffered irreversible brain damage during birth. She has been hooked up to a ventilator at the Royal Children's Hospital (pictured) ever since

Alta suffered irreversible brain damage during birth. She has been hooked up to a ventilator at the Royal Children’s Hospital (pictured) ever since

In a statement released after the ruling, Mat Culverhouse, a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell law firm representing Alta and her family, said: ‘Naturally, Alta’s parents are disappointed with today’s decision.

‘They are devastated at the prospect of her treatment being withdrawn and are now considering their options with regard to appealing.

‘We’ll continue to support them throughout this difficult time.’

A fundraising website set up for Alta has raised £275,907 as of early Monday afternoon. 

The page describes Alta as ‘a long-awaited sibling to their 5-year-old Hershy’ and claims her condition had at one point improved to the extent that doctors were preparing to discharge her for care at home. 

‘Not too long ago, the hospital was ready to send Alta home – which is where every child belongs! The hospital trained Alta’s parents to look after her independently.

‘Unfortunately, due to a few complications, the move home was delayed,’ the site reads.

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