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Hospital Committees as Death Panels? Judge Orders Baby Removed from Life Support Against Mom's Wishes

01-02-2020
TexasBaby
Tinslee Lewis. (Image credit: Texas Right to Life)

A Texas judge ruled Thursday that a Fort Worth, Texas hospital can remove an 11-month-old girl from life support after her mother disagreed with doctors who say the infant is in pain and that her condition will never improve.

Trinity Lewis had asked Judge Sandee Bryan Marion, the chief justice of Texas' Fourth Court of Appeals, to issue an injunction to ensure that the Cook Children's Medical Center doesn't end her daughter Tinslee Lewis' life-sustaining treatment. 

In a written statement issued by Texas Right to Life, a pro-life organization, Lewis said she was heartbroken over the judge's decision.

"I am heartbroken over today's decision because the judge basically said Tinslee's life is NOT worth living. I feel frustrated because anyone in that courtroom would want more time just like I do if Tinslee were their baby," Lewis wrote. "I hope that we can keep fighting through an appeal to protect Tinslee. She deserves the right to live. Please keep praying for Tinslee and thank you for supporting us during this difficult time."

Texas Right to Life, which opposes Texas' "10-day rule" and has been advocating for Tinslee, said the girl's mother will appeal the judge's decision.

Doctors at the hospital had planned to remove Tinslee from life support Nov. 10 after invoking the state's "10-day rule" which can be employed when a family disagrees with doctors who say life-sustaining treatment should be stopped. The law stipulates that if the hospital's ethics committee agrees with doctors, treatment can be withdrawn after 10 days if a new provider can’t be found to take the patient.

Hospital officials have said they reached out to more than 20 facilities to see if one would take Tinslee, but all agreed that further care is futile. 

Tinslee has been at Cook Children's since her premature birth. The hospital said she has a rare heart defect and suffers from chronic lung disease and severe chronic high blood pressure. She hasn't come off a ventilator since going into respiratory arrest in early July and requires full respiratory and cardiac support, deep sedation and to be medically paralyzed. The hospital said doctors believe she's suffering.

Lewis testified at a hearing last month that despite her daughter's sedation, she has a sense of the girl's likes and dislikes, describing her as “sassy.” Tinslee enjoys the animated musical “Trolls” and cries when it ends, the mother said. 

“I want to be the one to make the decision for her,” Lewis said, about removing her daughter from life support.

Prior to Thursday's ruling, both sides agreed that if Marion denied the injunction request, the hospital would wait at least seven days before taking Tinslee off life-support. In her decision, Marion said the seven-day period would give the girl's mother time to file a notice of appeal and a motion for emergency relief with the state court of appeals. 

In an email to CBN News, Kimberlyn Schwartz, director of media and communication for Texas Right to Life wrote: "Texas Right to Life is disappointed that the ruling not only disregarded the Constitution but also sentenced an innocent 11-month-old baby to death like a criminal. The 10-Day Rule has robbed countless patients of their Right to Life and the right to due process. We pray the appellate court will identify how the law violates Baby Tinslee's due process rights, revoke her death sentence, and strike down the deadly 10-Day Rule."

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