In a dramatic ruling, an Israeli court ruled that a 13-year-old girl suffering from cancer must have her hand amputated – otherwise she will die. The ruling came after the girl’s mother refused to authorize the operation, claiming the only treatment her daughter requires is fasting and prayer.
Three months ago, the Ministry of Social Affairs’ legal adviser filed an urgent request with the Family Court, requesting permission to perform the urgent surgery.
In the petition, Dr. Dror Levin, director of the pediatric hemato-oncology clinic at the Sourasky medical center in Tel Aviv, wrote: “The girl suffers from an aggressive malignant tumor. Without treatment, it will spread to the soft tissues; beyond doubt, the disease is fatal in 100% of the cases – if not treated.”
Dr. Levin recommended a full amputation of the hand, which will give the girl a 60%-65% chance of recovery, and determined that without the amputation, she will surely die.
Social services reported that the girl’s mother, described as “a stubborn pious woman,” refused consent and cooperation with the hospital staff, claiming that the cure for her daughter’s condition is not medical treatment, but rather fasting and prayer.
According to social services, the mother – who has been raising the daughter on her own after the father died several years ago – refused to change her mind after hearing Dr. Levin’s prognosis, saying her daughter is “better off dead.”
Upon hearing her mother’s comment, the girl started weeping, but quickly accepted her verdict, saying “I understand I have no other choice.”
Even after receiving a second opinion from founder of “Ezra LeMarpeh” Association Rabbi Firer, who also determined the girl must undergo the surgery, the mother stood her grounds.
‘Life above all’
In a hearing at the Tel Aviv District Family Court last Thursday, Judge Yehoram Shaked ruled that “no parent has the right to take action or withhold action that might lead to the death of his child.
“Safeguarding a life supersedes all other matters,” he wrote, adding that Jewish halacha and Israeli law regard the sanctity of life with the highest value.
The judge also ruled that if the mother interferes with her daughter’s medical treatment, the police must intervene.
Meanwhile, the girl is still hospitalized at Sheba Medical Center and has yet to receive medical treatment. Hospital staff noted that postponing the treatment by a few days will not worsen her chances of recovery.
The hospital management has been consulting with senior legal advisers in an attempt to find the “golden path” that will rescue the girl without hurting her family members.
“This story is still not over – not ethically or legally. We are currently studying the court’s decision. The girl is facing a critical medical procedure and we are trying to find the best solution for everyone; we still haven’t decided if and when the said procedure will take place,” said Sheba Medical Center Deputy Director-General Dr. Yitzhak Zeides.