In Desperate Appeal to UK Authorities, US Lawmakers Reiterate Offer of Medical Treatment for Jewish Toddler on Life Support
Efforts by US lawmakers to bring a Jewish toddler who was severely brain damaged at birth from the United Kingdom to the US for hospital treatment appeared doomed on Thursday, after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declined a desperate appeal from her parents.
Two-year-old Alta Fixsler’s parents have been locked in a legal dispute with the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust in the UK. Doctors at the trust who treated Alta, who is unable eat or breathe without medical assistance, concluded earlier this year that she has no chance of recovery.
At the end of May, UK High Court Justice Sir Alistair MacDonald ruled that Alta’s life-support treatment could be withdrawn, as this was “in her best interests.” Citing the observation of Alta’s doctors that she could not experience pleasure, but was vulnerable to pain and distress, Justice MacDonald ruled out the proposal to take the child to the US or Israel for further treatment, on the grounds that this would cause her further needless pain.
Alta’s parents had argued that withdrawing life-support would be a fundamental violation of their Orthodox Jewish beliefs and offered to take her abroad for treatment at their own expense. Her father is a US citizen and Alta has been granted a visa to enter this country for medical treatment.
On Monday, the Fixlers received a letter from the Strasbourg-based ECHR rejecting their appeal and concurring with the UK court’s assessment of Alta’s condition.
In response, seven Democratic Senators — Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Cory Booker and Robert Menendez (NJ), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Thomas Carper (DE) and Tammy Duckworth (IL) — sent a letter on Wednesday to the British Ambassador in Washington, DC, Karen Pierce, urging that Alta be allowed to fly to the US.
“In light of the long, productive, and mutually rewarding US-UK alliance, we make this urgent and time sensitive plea to allow the daughter of an American citizen to travel to the US on the visa that was secured for her to seek medical care,” the senators wrote. “This is a matter of life and death and again we urge you to work with us to facilitate the travel of Alta Fixsler from the UK to the United States, where care for her is waiting.”
In June, ten Republican Senators made a similar demand, declaring in a letter to President Joe Biden that it was “unconscionable that the British government is usurping the role of parents and disregarding the sincere religious objections of the family.”
Lawyers for the Fixlers are still working to secure a negotiated agreement to bring Alta to the US despite the exhaustion of legal avenues.
A spokesperson for the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust told the BBC that it could make no comment on whether agreement would be reached.
“We recognize that this is an incredibly difficult and distressing time for Alta’s family, and we will continue to support them,” the spokesperson said. “Due to patient confidentiality, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”