‘Alta was alive and breathed on her own for 90 minutes after her breathing tube was removed,” Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum wrote, stating the key fact as clearly as possible.
The United Kingdom wanted two-year-old Alta Fixsler, a severely disabled Hasidic girl, dead. The powers-that-be may not have put it that baldly, but they decided to end her life. Fixsler’s parents wanted to bring her to Israel. There were offers from American and Israeli hospitals to try experimental treatments. But the medical establishment and the judiciary decided they knew best.
“According to Jewish law, everyone has the right to hydration, nutrition, and respiration, and the removal of that breathing tube was tantamount to murder,” Rabbi Greenbaum wrote. “I can accept that others might have different views, yet how could contemporary society not reciprocally respect another perspective on what constituted Alta’s best interest?”
And this is exactly the problem. We are living in a supposedly tolerant era — but tolerant only of the views that are trending.
A friend recently told me about an abortion in her family. The doctor advised it because the baby had many problems and was expected to die right away. But who are we to say that shouldn’t happen naturally? Let the parents hold their child in their arms, if only for hours or minutes. The baby already is and always will be a part of their lives. It’s a fear of suffering and sacrifice that makes abortion and physician-assisted suicide palatable, maybe even desirable. It’s economics and ideology that drive a hospital and a court to decide — to insist — that a child be killed against the wishes of her parents. Alta was treated worse than we treat hardened criminals.
What was just done to Alta is a grave sin according to the Jewish law by which Abraham and Chaya Fixsler, Alta’s parents, live their lives. By what authority does a court or a doctor negate their religious freedom and Alta’s right to life? A judge reasoned that we don’t actually know whether or not Alta would agree with the way the Fixslers chose to keep her alive.
What nonsense — and what a grave violation of their religious freedom. Every day of Alta’s life was a gift to her parents — but a waste of space and money to a leading Western government. That should send chills down our spines.
There was some intervention to try to help get the family to the United States or Israel — including by Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N,Y.). There was an offer of a private charter flight. But Alta was a prisoner. Her parents were depicted as delusional monsters for hoping she’d heal and for desiring that, at the very least, she’d die in Israel (both parents are Israeli citizens).
In 1995, Pope John Paul II wrote:
There exists in contemporary culture a certain Promethean attitude which leads people to think that they can control life and death by taking the decisions about them into their own hands. What really happens in this case is that the individual is overcome and crushed by a death deprived of any prospect of meaning or hope. We see a tragic expression of all this in the spread of euthanasia — disguised and surreptitious, or practiced openly and even legally. As well as for reasons of a misguided pity at the sight of the patient’s suffering, euthanasia is sometimes justified by the utilitarian motive of avoiding costs. . . . Thus it is proposed to eliminate malformed babies, the severely handicapped, the disabled, the elderly, especially when they are not self-sufficient, and the terminally ill.
Rabbi Greenbaum would no doubt agree.
Those of us who pray ought to pray for Abraham and Chaya Fixsler. What a hole must be in their hearts. Alta Fixsler shouldn’t have died as she did. There is a ghoulishness to it that should make us in the West ponder what kind of bloodlust lies behind our outlook on life. We see life as discardable when it’s not convenient. That’s evil, and we need to fight it.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.
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