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Health Care

Why Is the NHS — and the High Court — Determined for Alta Fixsler to Die?

An NHS logo is seen on an ambulance in London, England, January 2, 2021. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Bill McGurn writes about the ongoing fight to get two-year-old Alta Fixsler out of her U.K.-NHS prison, explaining that this isn’t even a cost-saving measure (as bad as that would be), but something  “more monstrous”:

That even if it wouldn’t cost the NHS a penny, Alta Fixsler must be denied the possibility of treatment elsewhere because the experts and her assigned guardian have concluded, as the Hon. Mr. Justice Alistair MacDonald ably summed up in his decision, that she “has no quality of life” and “the burdens of Alta’s life outweigh any benefits.”

This is, of course, a moral judgment, not a medical one. On its own terms, it isn’t clear why it is owed any more deference than the contending moral calculus raised by Alta’s parents. Their faith, they say, is rooted in “the sanctity of life,” the “fundamental Jewish belief that human life, no matter how compromised, is invaluable.”

The Fixslers further note that Judaism isn’t simply a set of beliefs but a way of life, with guidance on everything from what they eat to how they pray to their obligations to others. The rabbis Alta’s parents consulted acknowledge Jewish law doesn’t always require patients be put on life support. But to remove it after it has been applied, they say, would hasten death and constitute a grave sin.

The justification for forbidding the Fixslers to take Alta to another hospital overseas rests largely on the grounds she might experience pain in transit. Think about that. Millions of people live with significant daily pain and suffering. Does this pain mean their lives have any less worth?

Ah, our new barbarians say, such people are conscious, able to make that calculation for themselves. Alta cannot, and she has no hope of getting better.

But even the doctors admit they can’t say for sure whether or how Alta experiences pain. Even so, they insist their judgment must be final and absolute, illuminating the death wish lurking behind so much of modern notions of “compassion,” which here elevates avoiding even the possibility of pain above all else, including living.

And if it comes to life-or-death decisions, are these best left to the courts and the clinicians? Or might there be something to be said in cases like Alta’s for deferring to the two people who love her most, her mom and dad — Abraham and Chaya Fixsler ?

Read more from his Wall Street Journal column.

I wrote about Alta here and here.

These extreme cases cast a light on the dangerous ways the medical profession is thinking these days.

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