An appeals court heard arguments Tuesday in the case of a Fort Worth mother who does not want a hospital to end life-sustaining treatment for her 1-year-old daughter.
Texas' Second Court Court of Appeals is considering the case after a lower court said Cook Children's Medical Center could remove Tinslee Lewis from life support. The appeals court has said the child will remain on life support until it makes a final ruling in the case.
Doctors at the Fort Worth hospital have said Tinslee is in pain and will never recover. Her 20-year-old mother, Trinity Lewis, has said she doesn't think Tinslee, who turned 1 Saturday, is suffering.
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"She has not had dying spells and I don't believe that she's suffering," said Lewis to reporters after the hearing. "Tinslee is a fighter and as long as she keeps responding to us and showing us that she is fighting, as her mom I will keep fighting for her. I hope and pray these judges will give Tinslee a fair chance."
Lewis' attorney, Joe Nixon, told the three appellate judges that Lewis has the right to decide whether her daughter lives or dies.
"If you allow a third party to say at some point in your life that your life is not worth living, to the, we are all in trouble," said Nixon to reporters after the hearing. "That's what Cook's argument was. Cook's argument is that this baby's life, Tinslee, is not worth living to them, but it's not their decision, it belongs to this young woman right here, her mother. That's what our constitution guarantees, that no one can take Trinity's right away without due process."
Amy Warr, an attorney for Cook Children's, said that doctors have a right to decline care for a patient if that care "causes suffering without medical benefit."
Kyleen Wright, president of the Texans of Life which is a pro-life organization, says they back the hospital's decision to want to stop life support.
“As Cook’s attorney said today, we all wish we could save her, we all wish we could, but it’s beyond the power to save her," said Wright who believes the child is suffering.
Doctor's at Cook Children's had planned to remove Tinslee from life support on 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 The law stipulates that if the hospital's ethics committee agrees with doctors, treatment can be withdrawn after 10 days if a new provider can't be found to take the patient.
The hospital and groups working on behalf of Lewis have reached out to other facilities but so far none have agreed to take her.
The hospital has said Tinslee has a rare heart defect and suffers from chronic lung disease and severe chronic high blood pressure. The hospital has said she has been on 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 appeals court did not give a deadline for when they'll make their decision.
Cook Children's didn't respond specifically to Tuesday's hearing, but in a statement said, " Cook Children’s has served residents of Fort Worth and Tarrant County for more than 100 years and is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of our patients.
Our patients deserve the best, most compassionate care possible to combat their medical issues. When a child comes to us in a compromised condition, no reasonable effort is spared. Our team fights alongside parents, holding their hands through the ups and the downs. For children suffering from chronic disease and complex medical issues, Cook Children’s provides round-the-clock, intensive care and attention to ensure their needs are met.
While every patient’s journey looks different, our commitment to them never fades as we keep pressing forward to put our patients’ needs above our own and working hard to give each child the very best care they deserve. This level of commitment becomes even more important when we are fighting for children who don’t have a voice.