Mary Margaret Olohan
– Baby Tinslee Lewis was born in February with severe medical problems and has been kept on life support ever since.
– Physicians at a Texas hospital, Cook Children’s Medical Center, say that the baby is in pain and there is nothing to be done for her.
– A court ruled Thursday, against the family’s wishes, that baby Tinslee must die.
A judge ruled Thursday that an 11-month-old baby can be taken off life support, though the child’s family does not want the baby to die.
Tinslee Lewis was born in February 2019 with severe medical problems and has been on life support in Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth since July, the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram reports. But Judge Sandee Marion ruled Thursday that the medical center can take the baby off life support against her family’s wishes.
The family lawyer says the family plans to appeal the decision and is filing an emergency motion to stay, according to the Star-Telegram. This would prevent the hospital from removing Tinslee’s life support if the motion to stay is granted. Cook Children’s Medical Center has agreed to keep the baby on life support for the next seven days, whether or not the requested stay is granted.
“I am heartbroken over today’s decision because the judge basically said Tinslee’s life is NOT worth living,” the child’s mother, Trinity Lewis, said in a statement shared by Texas Right to Life. “I feel frustrated because anyone in that courtroom would want more time just like I do if Tinslee were their baby. 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.”
Officials at the hospital say that the baby is in pain and that there is nothing to be done for her, but the family disagrees. The baby suffers from a rare heart defect called Ebstein anomaly as well as chronic lung disease, and severe chronic pulmonary hypertension. She has gone through several complicated surgeries.
“She is in pain,” said Dr. Jay Duncan, one of the baby’s physicians. “Changing a diaper causes pain. Suctioning her breathing tube causes pain. Being on the ventilator causes pain.”
“We care a lot about Tinslee,” Duncan added. “We care a lot about her family.”
Tarrant County Juvenile Court Judge Alex Kim originally took up the case, but he was removed after Cook Children’s Medical Center filed a motion questioning his impartiality and saying that he bypassed rules to make himself the presiding judge. Marion, who ran for her seat as a Republican, was then assigned to the case.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in on the Lewis’ family’s situation Thursday in a joint statement with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, calling Tinslee’s situation “complex and heartbreaking,” and promising to “continue to support” the family’s fight.
“The Attorney General’s office is involved in the ongoing litigation, fighting to see that due process and the right to life are fully respected by Texas law,” the statement says. “The Attorney General’s office will be supporting an appeal of this case to the Second Court of Appeals.”
“The State of Texas is fully prepared to continue its support of Ms. Lewis in the Supreme Court if necessary,” Abbott and Paxton add. “We are working diligently to do all we can to ensure that Tinslee and her family are provided the care and support that they seek.”
The baby’s fate has caused tension among pro-life groups in Texas as different groups put forth conflicting statements on the matter.
“We praise God for this extension of time, which grants Tinslee more than a month of life after the hospital was initially set to pull the plug on the baby on November 10,” said the Texas Right to Life, a group which has provided legal help to the Lewis family, in a statement.
Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kim Schwartz told the Daily Caller News Foundation that “Tinslee is not in immediate danger of death.” Schwartz explained that the hospital admitted when they originally began their 10-day countdown that Tinslee “could live with the proper care.
“Their decision was not based on whether treatment is or isn’t working,” she said. “But the bottom line is that the 10-Day Rule allowed a hospital committee to make this life-or-death decision without giving Tinslee due process. Criminals on death row have more rights than patients in Texas hospitals.”
The current law forces families into a “race against a countdown to save their loved ones,” Schwartz said, adding that the law is “clearly NOT pro-life.”
“Eliminating the countdown would save patients’ lives from this form of involuntary euthanasia,” she added. “We cannot speculate the reasons why any ‘Pro-Life’ group would support this clearly anti-Life law.”
But the pro-life group Texas Alliance for Life said that though they strongly sympathize with the baby and her family, they support doctors having the ability to decide to end treatment no longer beneficial to the patient – per the 1999 Texas Advance Directives Act, signed into law by former Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
“This law balances the family’s autonomy regarding end-of-life medical decisions with a doctor’s conscience rights to not order medically inappropriate interventions that would cause unnecessary suffering without the hope of improving their patient’s condition,” the organization said in a statement, the Star-Telegram reports.Texas Alliance for Life’s Dr. Joe Pojman told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the organization’s stances on the issue are “not about us disagreeing with another pro-life organization.”“This is about our support for the ethical principle behind the dispute resolution process in the Texas Advanced Directives Act,” Pojman said. “In those rare cases, when a patient is terminally ill and the medical interventions used to prolong their death are causing great pain and suffering and when no other health care provider is willing to accept a transfer, physicians should not be required to harm the patient by providing those interventions indefinitely.”
Cook Children’s Medical Center declined to comment to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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Image: Texas Right to Life