A UK hospital may withdraw life-saving medical support from a seriously ill child after the European Court of Human Rights rejected an appeal by the girl’s family.
Two year-old Alta Fixsler, who suffered a brain injury at birth, has been the subject of an ongoing legal dispute between her family and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.
Following a Supreme Court ruling that Alta could be placed into palliative care or have her life-sustaining treatment withdrawn, the child’s parents took their appeal to the ECHR, arguing that the hospital’s plans are against their Jewish faith and their rights as parents.
But, late on Monday night (02/08), the family heard that the ECHR had rejected the appeal under rule 39 of the European Convention on Human Rights, agreeing with the UK court’s decision to allow the withdrawal of life sustaining treatment and place Alta on end-of-life care.
Alta and her family, who are Hasidic Jews, have been granted a travel visa to the United States, where her father is a citizen, and have received invitiations from hospitals in Israel that are willing to take on responsibility for the girl’s ongoing care.
Despite this, the UK High Court, Supreme Court, and now the ECHR, have ruled to allow the withdrawal of her care.
Speaking on behalf of the Fixsler family, David Foster, partner at law firm Moore Barlow, said: “The ECHR’s decision is devastating for Alta’s parents who only want to see every option explored to try and save their daughter’s life.
“Legally, there are two significant areas of concern with this decision. First of all, we argue that Alta’s religious beliefs have not been adequately taken into account. In Jewish culture, one becomes a member of the faith at conception and Alta’s religion forbids the withdrawal of life-saving care.
“We also believe that excessive weighting has been given to ‘causing pain’ as a factor in the decision. We argue that Alta would feel no more or less pain being transported to a hospital in Israel than she would lying in a bed in Manchester – but her chance of further treatment has been denied her regardless.
“These are both areas that the courts need to look at as they crop up time and again in cases like this. Foreign nationals who have been offered care overseas should have the encouragement to explore these alternatives – preventing them from doing so is not in their best interests and is setting a worrying precedent.”