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Pain is not a justification for assisted dying

The case of Alta Fixsler, a young girl born with catastrophic brain damage, leaves one with a sense of deep sadness at the tragic nature of life. It strikes at the heart of debates around life and the context of death, particularly during our debate over assisted suicide.

The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital has won legal support for removing life-support from Alta. Her parents, Hasidic Jews, have disagreed, with dissension rooted in their faith. The case hinges on the hospital’s argument that Alta experiences “constant pain.” Despite parental protestations that she is in no distress, her clinicians have argued this is simply her medication suppressing the pain. The evidence of involuntary movements, interpreted as spinal spasms, supports the withdrawing of treatment to alleviate suffering.

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