Days before a hearing was scheduled for the case of 9-month-old Tinslee Lewis, the temporary restraining order preventing Cook Children’s Hospital from withdrawing treatment was extended.
Last week, a temporary restraining was issued by Tarrant County Judge Alex Kim hours before baby Tinslee was scheduled to be taken off of life support, preventing the hospital from withdrawing treatment under the Texas 10-Day Rule.
Originally effective through November 23 with a hearing set for this Friday, November 22, the extension sets the new hearing date on December 10, giving the family an additional two and a half weeks to find another medical facility for baby Tinslee.
“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,” a statement from Texas Right to Life reads.
Suffering from a rare heart defect called Ebstein’s anomaly, Tinslee is dependent on a ventilator and other medical devices that replace the function of her heart and lungs.
In July, Tinslee “suffered further deterioration of a pulmonary hypertensive crisis due to severe chronic lung disease that resulted in respiratory arrest,” according to Cook Children’s, who has been caring for Tinslee since her premature birth in February.
Believing that they had provided all the medical care they could for baby Tinslee, the hospital informed Tinslee’s mother, Trinity, at the end of October that treatment for the child would end a mere 10 days later, despite the family’s opposition to ending treatment.
Texas Right to Life, a non-profit advocacy organization currently providing legal counsel to the Lewis family, accompanied by state representatives Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) and Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), urged the public to call and appeal to hospital administrators to keep baby Tinslee on life support.
With the issuance of the temporary restraining order, the last-minute push proved to be a success.
Following the issuance of the order, however, Cook Children’s filed a motion to have Judge Alex Kim recused from the case.
The filing contends that the manner in which Judge Kim issued the temporary restraining order and his perceived connection with Texas Right to Life raise questions about his impartiality in the case.
Furthermore, the motion argues for the case to be heard by a randomly assigned judge rather than Judge Kim who was scheduled to hear the case on November 22.
Despite this legal action, sources at Texas Right to Life informed The Texan that the extension and new hearing date set for December have provided the Lewis family more time to search for an alternate care provider for baby Tinslee.
Texas Right to Life also says that although the transfer process is lengthy, the family has been working with Cook Children’s to find another facility and is hopeful one will accept her before the scheduled hearing.
Because of the media attention garnered by Tinslee’s case, the Lewis family is reportedly feeling encouraged and hopeful as leads for new hospitals continue to surface.
Under the Texas 10-Day Rule, if hospitals conclude that a path to recovery is not possible for a patient in their care, they are allowed under the statute to provide 10 days of advanced notice to the families in order for the families to seek an alternate healthcare provider or a court injunction.
The controversial rule, however, has faced criticism from many who believe 10 days to be an inadequate amount of time to find a different facility or seek help through legal channels.
Texas is one of a small number of states, including California and Virginia, to have such a law.
Cook Children’s, a non-profit organization located near downtown Fort Worth, touts itself as one of the largest freestanding pediatric health care systems in the southwest and boasts seeing more than 1 million patients annually across more than 60 medical offices and clinics.
Following the issuance of the restraining order on November 10, the hospital reiterated their original stance regarding Tinslee’s medical treatment saying, “As medical professionals, our responsibility – our highest duty – is to save lives. We are still working with Ms. Lewis and Texas Right to Life to find alternative care, however, it is our sincere belief that further medical intervention is not in Tinslee’s best interest. With the temporary restraining order in place, we are continuing to treat and care for Tinslee as we always have. Nothing has changed.”
Cook Children’s pushed back against claims that only recently were conversations about Tinslee’s condition undertaken.
“It’s been misreported that we only recently discussed the gravity of Tinslee’s condition with Ms. Lewis, but the truth is we’ve been engaged in these conversations for months. Throughout Tinslee’s life here at Cook Children’s, we’ve had multiple ongoing conversations with Ms. Lewis and her extended family regarding our concern for Tinslee’s long-term survival.”
The hospital also claims to have reached out to more than 20 other medical facilities across the country, all of which they said agreed with the administration’s decision to end treatment.
Despite this statement and the legal filings, however, Cook Children’s says their “efforts to find another facility to care for Tinslee have not stopped and will not.”
While the new hearing is not officially set, it is scheduled to occur between December 4 and December 10, during which time a judge will either grant a temporary injunction in favor of Tinslee or allow Cook Children’s to withdraw treatment.
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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.