IssuesLocal NewsStatewide NewsAppellate Court Grants Emergency Stay, Keeping Tinslee Lewis on Life Support

On Friday, an appellate court granted an emergency motion, requiring Cook Children's to continue providing life sustaining treatment to Tinslee Lewis throughout the appeals process.
January 7, 2020
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On Friday, an appellate court in Fort Worth granted an emergency motion filed on behalf of the Lewis family requiring Cook Children’s to provide life sustaining treatment to baby Tinslee Lewis throughout the appeals process.

The news comes just days after a trial court denied a temporary injunction filed on behalf of the Lewis family, effectively allowing Cook Children’s hospital to remove the infant from life support under the Texas 10-Day Rule.

After filing an emergency motion with the court of appeals within hours of the trial court’s ruling, the Lewis family’s attorney, Joe Nixon, said Friday’s ruling means, “Cook’s must maintain life sustaining care under the statute until the court has determined the appeal or further order of the court.”

“There’s no countdown clock anymore,” Nixon continued.

Suffering from a rare congenital heart condition called Ebstein’s anomaly, baby Tinslee has been in the care of Cook Children’s hospital since her premature birth in February. 

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After determining that a path to recovery was not foreseeable for the infant, the hospital’s Ethics Committee informed the Lewis family in October of their decision to end treatment in accordance with the Texas 10-Day Rule, a statute under the Texas Advance Directives Act

Following the trial court’s ruling on December 2 allowing the hospital to end treatment, Cook Children’s reiterated their belief that removing baby Tinslee from life support is the best course of action.

“Our medical judgment is that Tinslee should be allowed to pass naturally and peacefully rather than artificially kept alive by painful treatments. Even with most extraordinary measures the medical team is taking, Tinslee continues to suffer,” the hospital said. 

However, Trinity Lewis, Tinslee’s mother, emphasized her belief that the infant is not suffering and the family’s desire is for her treatment to continue.

“I do not think that Tinslee is suffering. Cook’s has been saying these things to support their opinions to immediately end her life, which we, her family, do not believe this is the best plan for Tinslee,” Trinity said at a press conference yesterday. 

Tinslee’s case has garnered public support from a number of prominent lawmakers in Texas, including Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton in addition to a number of state representatives. 

In December, 16 state legislators sent a bipartisan letter asking Gov. Abbott to call a special session to repeal the 10-Day Rule on behalf of baby Tinslee. 

Additionally, Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a joint statement earlier this month advocating for the Lewis family in which they say, “The case of Tinslee Lewis is complex and heartbreaking, and the state will continue to support Ms. Lewis’s exhaustion of all legal options to ensure that Tinslee is given every chance at life.”

Paxton, who previously filed an amicus brief in support of the case, further praised the appellate court’s decision on Friday saying he was “Thankful the Fort Worth Court of Appeals granted baby Tinslee emergency relief today, while this legal issue is being resolved.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also issued a statement backing Attorney General Paxton and emphasizing his support for Tinslee and the Lewis family.

“Nothing is more important to Texans than protecting innocent life, which is why we stand determined to protect Tinslee Lewis. I am in full support of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s effort to appeal this case and continue to pursue every legal option to give this precious baby a chance at life,” Patrick said

According to Nixon, five amicus briefs have been filed in support of Tinslee at the temporary injunction stage with the expectation that more will soon follow. 

On the other side of the argument and in support of the hospital, various organizations, including Texas Alliance for Life, the Texas Medical Association, and Tarrant County Medical Society, among others, have filed amicus briefs of their own in defense of Cook Children’s and the Texas 10-Day Rule.

Catholic Health Association of Texas sent a letter of their own to Gov. Abbott, advocating their support for Cook Children’s and the hospital’s decision to invoke the Texas 10-Day Rule. 

According to Hannah Mehta with Protect Texas Fragile Kids, an organization working with the Lewis family to find another facility for Tinslee, the search for a new medical provider is still ongoing but some surgeons have expressed hope and encouragement for Tinslee’s eligibility for treatment. 

Cook Children’s says they have reached out to more than 20 facilities asking about possible transfer opportunities for baby Tinslee, but all have agreed with their decision that ending treatment is the best course of action. 

According to Trinity, the family hopes Tinslee will soon be able to transition to palliative care and eventually home care, though physicians for Cook’s have discouraged this idea due to the complications of Tinslee’s condition. 

Moving forward, legal counsel for the family says that they will file a brief stating why they believe the Texas 10-Day rule is unconstitutional and “how the trial court erred in not granting a temporary injunction.”

Cook Children’s will then have a chance to respond after which the court of appeals will make a final decision.

Read a full recap of Tinslee’s story here

Timeline of Events

February 2019: Tinslee Lewis is born prematurely and diagnosed with Ebstein’s anomaly.

October 30: The Lewis family is informed of a decision made by the Cook Children’s Ethics Committee to end Tinslee’s treatment.

October 31: A letter explaining the decision of the hospital’s Ethics Committee to discontinue treatment is delivered to Trinity, marking the beginning of the 10-day time frame under the Texas Advance Directives Act.

November 10: Tarrant County Judge Alex Kim issues a temporary restraining order effective through November 22, preventing Cook Children’s from ending treatment.

November 19: The temporary restraining order is temporarily extended until December 10.

November 20: Cook Children’s files a motion to recuse Judge Kim from Tinslee’s case, citing concerns about the Tarrant County Judge’s ability to remain unbiased and violations in the way the original order was issued.

 December 4: Judge Kim is recused from Tinslee’s case.

December 9: The case is assigned to Chief Justice Sandee B. Marion of the Fourth Court of Appeals.

December 10: A hearing is scheduled for December 12.

December 12: The temporary injunction hearing result in an extension until January 2.

January 2, 2020: Justice Marion denies the temporary injunction allowing Cook Children’s to remove Tinslee from life support. 

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Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.