For the JC June 2021
A High Court judge has ruled that a seriously ill two-year-old girl, Alta Fixsler, should be put into palliative care, agreeing with lawyers for Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust that “there was no prospect of her ever getting better”.
On Friday, Mr Justice MacDonald, sitting in the Family Division of the High Court, put paid to the hopes of Alta’s strictly Orthodox parents, who had wanted to take their daughter to a Jerusalem hospital for further treatment.
Alta, who suffered a brain injury at birth, is unable to breathe, eat or drink without medical intervention. The Manchester hospital told the court that she is unable to experience pleasure, but could experience pain and distress.
Before his ruling, the judge told lawyers he would have to take the ongoing hostilities in Israel and Gaza into account when reaching a decision about what was in Alta’s best interests.
But on Friday it appeared that this was not a major consideration in the judge’s ruling. He told lawyers for Alta’s parents, and the hospital, that the child had “no prospect of recovery”, and that taking her abroad would expose her to “further pain”.
The Fixslers’ barrister, Victoria Butler-Cole,said they had “implored the trust to reconsider their position” and allow them to take their daughter to a hospital in Jerusalem.
But Mr Justice MacDonald said that taking Alta to Israel “would cause her discomfort for no medical benefit, in circumstances where all parties accept that the treatment options now available for Alta provide no prospect of recovery”. Her parents, he added, “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… I cannot agree with their assessment and am required to act accordingly”. He instructed the hospital to proceed with a palliative care regime for Alta.
The parents, according to their lawyer, are “devastated” at the ruling and are considering an appeal.