The Jerusalem Post
Don’t kill the Alta Fixsler inside of you
‘Would you be willing to pull the plug?” I look her in the eyes. This is usually where the tears start flowing, and the answer invariably is a horrified “No.”
As a coach who works with high-achiever women, I have learned that at the bottom of all our blocks, frustrations, disappointments and pain is a deep-seated sense of conditional worthiness. Most of us live out our lives with a sense that we are only worthy as humans if we meet a certain set of benchmarks that our parents and society have drilled into our heads. If you go to the right college, get the right job, make the right amount of money, have the right kind of family, parent the right way and go to the right kind of synagogue, then you are worthy. If not, you are doomed to a life of harsh self-criticism and constant gnawing feelings that you are not enough.
Long before I heard about Alta Fixsler, my most effective way to break through this thought pattern had been to ask my clients whether the life of a brain-damaged, life-supported young child is worth saving. I ask my clients whether they would be willing to pull the child’s ventilator plug with their own hands. Their emphatic “no” starts the conversation about the absolute worthiness of every human being, not due to any achievement, but simply by virtue
of having been brought into the world by God. This is the beginning, middle and end of our worthiness and any achievement is just our way of putting that divinely-inspired gift at the service of others.
Unfortunately, our axiomatic unconditional worthiness is in grave danger. For the past several weeks, a UK hospital has been dead-set about pulling one such child off life support
against the expressed wishes of her family and an unprecedented international outcry.
Alta Fixsler is a two-year-old girl who was born prematurely and sustained a severe brain injury. She and her parents are Israeli citizens and hassidic Jews. The hospital decided that Alta was “experiencing pain” and has no quality of life and therefore petitioned the British High
Court for permission to remove her life support. Numerous pediatric neurologists contest the hospital’s position and insist that Alta does not feel pain. Still, the court gave the hospital the unilateral decision-making power over the girl’s life.
Motivated by the Jewish outlook on the unconditional worthiness of every human life, Alta’s parents have made every effort to save her life and vigorously oppose the hospital’s intentions. Removing life support is prohibited by Alta’s Jewish religion, and is against Israeli Law.
HOSPITALS IN both Israel and the US have offered to take Alta into their care, and United Hatzalah Air has offered to fly her to any destination needed. The life-saving effort would not cost the UK National Health Service a penny, yet in scenario that can only be described as Kafkaesque, the doctors in the UK are not willing to release the child to the parents’ family, determined to kill the child instead. The entreaties of dozens of politicians, hundreds of clergymen and numerous human rights activists from around the globe have fallen on deaf ears.
History has taught us that societies that are willing to dispose of its most vulnerable members will have no qualms murdering any human. In 1939, Hitler’s “mercy note” set the stage for Aktion T4, a concerted extermination effort in which physicians were authorized to murder patients “deemed incurably sick after most critical medical examination.” As a result, close to 300,000 mental health patients, children suffering from congenital disease and malformation, and other people with disabilities were involuntarily euthanized. It was a harbinger of things to come as the floodgates of the Holocaust were flung open at the same time.
Alta’s life matters, and not only to her parents. Despite the fact that Alta will never get up from bed, walk or talk, she – like other children and adults in her situation – is creating the greatest social contribution possible. Alta is the beacon of our humanity. It is only by committing to preserving every human life and setting aside any considerations of expediency that we retain our human image and unconditional worthiness. It is only if Alta is worthy enough to continue living that all of us are worthy enough.
Little Alta lives in you. It is that beating heart and life force that wants to keep on living, no matter what. It is your God-given soul that came into the world simply because the world would not be complete without it. Letting Alta be discarded means throwing ourselves into a self-inflicted hell of shame, indignity and toxic considerations of expendability.
I urge you to take a stand. Please write an immediate letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Services Sajid Javid, requesting that Alta not be taken off life support and that she be transferred to a hospital where she will get the best level of care.
It is time to bring little Alta home, for all our sakes.