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Young Alta Fixsler’s Life and Religious Liberty Have Been Taken Away from Her by the United Kingdom

(Michał Chodyra/Getty Images)

The European Court of Human Rights will not help two-year-old Alta Fixsler’s parents keep Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital from taking her off life support. Her family is Hasidic, and Justice Alistair MacDonald of the British High Court previously ruled that he refused to “accept the submission that the assessment of Alta’s perspective should start from the assumption that Alta would share the values of her parents, of her brother, and of her wider family and community.” So, because she is a severely disabled child, she does not have religious liberty? Her parents and their rabbi were dismissed as being under the influence of “the flattering voice of hope” and not “medically qualified” to make decisions about Alta’s life. Further, the judge declared that “the sanctity of Alta’s life is not, within the context of the secular laws that this court must apply, absolute.”

Alta’s parents want to be able to take her to Israel, where both parents are citizens, but Justice MacDonald said earlier this month that there’s no point in that since “Alta has and will continue to have minimal or no awareness of her family and social relationships, minimal or no ability to respond to external stimuli so as to take comfort or enjoyment from those who love her or the world around her and engage in the enlargement of knowledge of her world.” Alta’s father is also an American citizen, and hospitals in both countries are willing to take her and see if they can help improve her condition — and let her live her short, painful life, loved.

The longtime member of the House of Commons and human-rights activist Lord David Alton told me:

I have written to the U.K. Government about the case of Alta Fixsler and strongly believe that she should be allowed to travel to the U.S. or Israel with her parents. This case, and others like it, revolve around fundamental questions concerning life, death, and care. It strikes at the heart of beliefs about parental and family rights and duties. The U.K. has wrongly allowed legalism and the State to ride roughshod over the wishes of loving parents. The decision should be reversed without delay.

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