The father of a brain-damaged girl on life support in the UK has asked to be allowed to take her to Israel for treatment after a British court ruled her care can be stopped.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, says he cannot agree with any course of action that might shorten two-year-old daughter Alta Fixsler’s life because of his ultra-Orthodox Jewish faith.
Instead, he wants a team of doctors to come from Israel to Manchester, where Alta is in hospital, to present treatment options with the ultimate aim of taking her abroad.
It comes after Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein appealed to the UK government last week, saying the Jewish state is willing to take responsibility for her care.
Alta has been on life support since birth after oxygen deprivation caused her to suffer brain damage that left her needing assistance to breathe and eat.
Last month, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust won permission to withdraw her care. Her father will discover today whether he can appeal the ruling.
Alta Fixsler (pictured) suffered a severe brain injury at birth and her doctors say she cannot breathe, eat or drink without sophisticated medical treatment
‘I want to keep my daughter, I want to have the ability to go to Israel and take my daughter with me,’ he told the Reuters news agency.
‘Under UK law, she’s an Israeli citizen, not a UK one. We waited a long time for a child, when she was born she was oxygen deprived and that caused brain damage.
‘We believe she is not suffering and we want to have the right to keep her. We want to do the best for her … Let me take my daughter and go to Israel.’
Presenting their case at the High Court last month, medics said that Alta is suffering severe brain damage and requires ‘sophisticated medical treatment’ for basic functions such as breathing, eating and drinking.
They said there is no prospect of her recovering, and that no treatment exists which could substantially improve her condition.
In court, lawyers for the girl argued that she should be taken to Israel so that her treatment can be continued.
But giving his ruling on May 28, Mr Justice MacDonald said the transfer would ‘expose Alta to further pain and discomfort for no medical benefit.’
‘All parties accept that the treatment options now available for Alta provide no prospect of recovery,’ he 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.’
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
Barrister Victoria Butler-Cole QC, representing the family, 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.’
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 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.
Alta suffered irreversible brain damage during birth. She has been hooked up to a ventilator at the Royal Children’s Hospital (pictured) ever since