Fort Worth

Judge Extends Temporary Restraining Order in North Texas Baby's Life Support Case

10-month-old Tinslee Lewis has been at Cook Children's since her premature birth

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A judge has extended a temporary restraining order in a case centering around whether a Fort Worth hospital can take a 10-month-old girl off life support despite her family's opposition.

On Thursday, Judge Sandee Bryan Marion extended the temporary restraining order until Jan. 2, 2020, in Tinslee Lewis' case. Marion heard arguments from attorneys representing Lewis' family and Cook Children's Medical Center after the 10-month-old baby's family requested a temporary injunction.

The injunction would stop Cook Children's Medical Center from removing life-sustaining treatment for the girl, who has been at Cook Children's since her premature birth.

Marion said she would rule on the injunction on or before Jan. 2, as the decision requires more time and research.

The hospital said Lewis has a rare heart defect and suffers from chronic lung disease and severe chronic high blood pressure. The baby hasn't been off a ventilator since she went 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.

Speaking with reporters Thursday evening, Tinslee's mother Trinity Lewis said she believes her daughter will continue to fight.

"This isn't Tinslee's first rodeo. She's made it this far. I know she's going to continue to fight for her life," Lewis said.

A judge on Thursday will consider whether a Fort Worth hospital can take a 10-month-old girl off life support despite her family’s opposition.

Lewis was the first witness to take the stand Thursday. Her daughter has had three open-heart surgeries.

She described the baby as "sassy", enjoys any toys with lights, and that her favorite movie is "Trolls." The decision to take her off life support is one she wants to be able to make, Lewis testified.

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 The law stipulates if the hospital's ethics committee agrees with doctors, treatment can be withdrawn after 10 days if a new provider can't be found to take the patient.

A judge on Thursday will consider whether a Fort Worth hospital can take a 10-month-old girl off life support despite her family’s opposition.
The family of Tinslee Lewis awaits the start of Thursday's hearing. (Published Dec. 12, 2019)

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 so-called "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, Marion of Texas' Fourth Court of Appeals was assigned to her the request for the permanent injunction.

Dr. Jay Duncan with Cook Children's Medical Center is one of five attending physicians overseeing Tinslee's case. There is no further treatment they can administer that can clinically improve the child's condition, Dr. Duncan testified.

On the stand Thursday, Duncan pointed out Tinslee is neither brain-dead nor does she did suffer a brain injury, so she can feel pain. He described it as "cruel" to give her treatments, knowing the goal of improvement and recovery was "hopeless."

"It is completely unnatural, what is being done to her," Duncan testified.

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 began to talk to the family about ultimately withdrawing 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 agreed further care is futile.

Wini King with Cook Children's said the ruling Thursday means the hospital will continue to give the baby the same amount of high-level care she's been receiving for the past 10 months. Their immediate concern is Tinslee's comfort, King said.

"As you heard in testimony today, she's in pain and she's suffering as a result of the things we are doing for her to stay alive and to care for her. Even the most basic things - changing her diaper, giving her medication," King said. "Doing treatments for her can cause a medical crisis that will result in intervention and results in more pain and more suffering."

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.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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