FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge on Thursday was considering whether a hospital can take a 10-month-old girl off life support despite her family’s opposition.
The judge heard the request by Tinslee Lewis’ family for a temporary injunction to stop Cook Children’s Medical Center from removing life-sustaining treatment for the girl.
Doctors at the Fort Worth hospital had planned to remove Tinslee from life support Nov. 10 after invoking Texas’ “10-day rule,” which can be employed when a family disagrees with doctors who say life-sustaining treatment should be stopped. The law stipulates if the hospital’s ethics committee agrees with doctors, treatment can be withdrawn after 10 days if a new provider can’t be found to take the patient.
Tarrant County Juvenile Court Judge Alex Kim on Nov. 10 issued a temporary restraining order to stop the removal of life support. But Kim was removed from the case last week after the hospital filed a motion questioning his impartiality and how he’d gotten the case. The hospital said that after taking the case, Kim spoke about it at an event hosted by a group that opposes the “10-day rule.” The hospital also said Kim bypassed the rules regarding random assignment when he designated himself to oversee the case.
After his removal, Judge Sandee Bryan Marion of Texas’ Fourth Court of Appeals was assigned to hear the request for the permanent injunction.
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. The hospital said she hasn’t been 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.
But Trinity Lewis, Tinslee’s mother, testified Thursday 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, but she doesn’t like to have her hair brushed.
“I want to be the one to make the decision for her,” Trinity Lewis said about removing the girl from life support.
Cook Children’s said hospital officials have been talking to Tinslee’s family for months about concerns for her long-term survival. By August, the hospital said, everyone on the girl’s care team agreed further care was futile and by September they’d begun talking to the family about ultimately withdrawing life support. With the doctors and her family still unable to resolve their differences, the ethics committee met Oct. 30 and unanimously decided further treatment was inappropriate.
Hospital officials said they’ve reached out to more than 20 facilities to see if one would take her, but all agree further care is futile.
Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that opposes the “10-day rule,” has been representing Tinslee’s family. Spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said her group has also been reaching out to facilities and they have hope one will be found, but they need more time.