A man in suit and tie speaking at a podium.

Alta Fixsler’s Murder in the UK Sparks Chayim Aruchim Convention Session on End of Life Care in America

With the murder of Alta Fixsler etched irrevocably in our collective memories, Chayim Aruchim’s Thursday night session at the 99th convention of Agudath Israel of America took on a palpable sense of urgency as it addressed the medical world’s cavalier attitude towards life, one that often has tragic results.

While Chayim Aruchim has been advocating for the religious rights of critically ill patients for over a decade, the Alta Fixsler case cast the spotlight on the very real need for its services, and the convention session focused on whether a similar situation could occur in the United States. The session was dedicated l’iluy nishmas Alta bas Rav Avrohom a’h, and in his opening remarks, Chayim Aruchim president Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz noted that the that assisted suicide is already legal in 11 states and already under debate in several others.

While the session was officially titled “The Murder of Alta Fixsler: Coming to the U.S.?†Machon Chayim Aruchim coordinator Rabbi Benzion Lesser emphasized that similar situations are already taking place multiple times each day in America, with doctors pressing patients and family members to allow them to discontinue treatment under the guise of kindness and compassion. Explaining the importance of empowering ourselves as a community to ensure that our religious values are respected, Rabbi Lesser urged everyone to sign a halachic living will, a legally binding document that obligates medical personnel to provide lifesaving treatment to critically ill patients.

Chayim Aruchim’s care navigator, Mrs. Leah Horowitz, urged listeners to be strong advocates for their loved ones, invoking their constitutional rights to religious freedom, if necessary. She shared several stories demonstrating the importance of contacting Chayim Aruchim early in order to ensure that patients received the care that is required according to halacha.

Rabbi Shloma Sperber, one of many who was helped by Mrs. Horowitz, shared the story of his nine year old son Luzy’s medical journey as he fought off an aggressive brain tumor. Describing how he saw attitudes and care shifting as his son’s situation deteriorated, Rabbi Sperber said it became clear that his initial assumption that doctors were trying to help his son was terribly wrong. As the ethics committee and doctors continued pressuring the family to discontinue treatment, they did everything in their power to prevent the Sperbers from transferring Luzy to a different hospital. Rabbi Sperber credited Chayim Aruchim for its continued advocacy and guidance that gave him the ability to make sure Luzy was treated according to halacha and transferred to a more sympathetic facility in his final months of life.

The hour-long session was followed by a thirty-minute question and answer period with attorneys Mark Kurzmann and Michael Korsinsky covering topics including choosing a Medicare program, traveling with advanced medical directives and how the United States and the United Kingdom differ when it comes to the confluence of religious and parental rights.

Mrs. Leah Horowitz noted that the session was intended to raise awareness about the liberal mindset that exists today in medical institutions, one that often creates heartbreaking and sometimes tragic outcomes.

“Even when a doctor or hospital staff tells you that a situation is hopeless, it is your job to advocate and, if necessary, invoke your constitutional right of religious freedom to get the care that you require al pi halacha,†said Mrs. Horowtiz. “Chayim Aruchim is there to help you.:

Click here to listen to the full session: https://www.torahanytime.com/#/lectures?v=169115