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Jewish Culture

For the Sake of Life

Moshe Unger
Posted 8/13/21

There’s a commotion happening in the Jewish Community in the last few months. The story is about the Fixler family in the U.K. who gave birth to a baby girl two years ago. The girl, Alta, was …

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Jewish Culture

For the Sake of Life

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There’s a commotion happening in the Jewish Community in the last few months. The story is about the Fixler family in the U.K. who gave birth to a baby girl two years ago. The girl, Alta, was lacking oxygen at birth which resulted in brain damage. She is not able to breath or eat on her own and needs life support. I know the father personally; we’ve studied together in Yeshiva.

The hospital claims, “there is no potential for her condition ever to improve, that there is no medical benefit to continuing her life support, that she is suffering pain and it would be humane to remove her from life support.”

The family was devastated at the hospital’s judgement and began an extensive outreach effort to anyone who can help. Many people and politicians were touched by their plight. The father is a U.S. and Israeli citizen, and, in both countries, they arranged with medical institutions who are ready to take their child. They even have sponsors ready to pay for the transport so there will be absolutely no cost to the U.K. government and health care system.

Astonishingly, the U.K. Health system didn’t budge with their judgement. The legal option was also tried but didn’t yield results.

Many U.S. politicians from both parties interceded on their behalf. Charles Schumer advocated to grant citizenship to Alta, which she is entitled to by law, so now we are dealing with a U.S. citizen.

Schumer said, “the images of little Alta make your heart melt, and to know just how much her parents love her inspires us to do all we can to ensure her best chance. Aside from this federal action of securing a visa, I also offer my most fervent prayers to her and her family.”

There is a famous Talmudic statement, “Whoever saves one soul is as if they saved the entire world.” We are blessed to be citizens of the United States where the sanctity of life is not judged by pain and comfort.

I’m baffled at the U.K.’s narrow definition of life. Is life only worth living if there is no pain? Something is always better than nothing! If we would define life as “someone who is able to give to others”, then Alta fits that bill very well. She is a source of happiness to her family. Many families with disabled members would testify how the disabled member is a part and parcel of the family and is just as alive as anyone else.

What is old age all about if everything is defined by pain and supposed “well-being”? I’ve heard and read from many people who were sick in the past and are not afraid of being sick again anymore. People who had a Near Death Experience say that they are not afraid of dying anymore. This tells us that the fear of pain, sickness, and dying is mainly a fear of the unknown. Once a person is in it, they can learn to live with it better than they ever thought they will.

We don’t want pain and we should do everything to avoid it for us and for others but defining a good life by the amount of pain is very very narrow. Multiple studies have shown that “meaning” is “the key” in life. If someone finds meaning in pain, then even pain becomes an important part of their life. Life is an end goal to itself and is not dependent on anything that happens “in life”. Taking away human life is certainly not “humane”.

We are blessed to live in a country where these basic concepts are ingrained in our culture, and it is certainly one of the things that makes this country so successful. Thank you, Charles Schumer and all the many other politicians, for representing our deep held beliefs and values!!

Comments? Email me: moshe@mosheunger.com

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