Local NewsStatewide NewsJudge Grants Extension in Tinslee Lewis Life Support Case

On Thursday, Justice Sandee Marion issued an extension until January 2 for Tinslee Lewis while she decides whether or not to grant the family's request for a temporary injunction.
December 13, 2019
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On Thursday, a judge granted more time for 10-month-old Tinslee Lewis with an extension through January 2 while she decides whether or not to grant the Lewis family’s request for a temporary injunction against Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth.

After a full day of testimonies from witnesses who included Tinslee’s doctor, mother, and members of the Cook Children’s Ethics Committee among others, Chief Justice Sandee Marion of the Fourth Court of Appeals granted more time for baby Tinslee until she issues a formal ruling on or before January 2.

Chief Justice Sandee B. Marion of the 4th Court of Appeals (Photo courtesy of Texas Judicial Branch)

In accordance with the Texas 10-Day Rule, a controversial statute under the Texas Advance Directives Act, medical care providers who conclude there is no path to recovery for a patient in their care are legally allowed to stop treating the patient 10 days after informing the family of their decision. 

At the end of October, Cook Children’s hospital informed the Lewis family of their intentions to remove baby Tinslee from life support under the conditions of the Texas 10-Day Rule. 

Born prematurely, 10-month-old Tinslee suffers from Ebstein’s anomaly, a rare congenital heart condition that requires the infant to depend on a ventilator and other medical devices capable of replacing the function of her heart and lungs. 

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Despite criticism from opponents who argue 10 days is too few, the stipulated time frame under the terms of the Texas Advance Directives Act is intended to provide the family time to find an alternative medical care provider or seek a court injunction.

Citing their belief that they had provided all the care they could for baby Tinslee, the decision to end treatment was made by the Cook Children’s Ethics Committee, an entity composed of both hospital employees as well as community members not employed by the hospital. 

However, just hours before Tinslee was scheduled to be removed from life support on November 10, Tarrant County Judge Alex Kim issued a temporary restraining order preventing the hospital from withdrawing treatment. 

Originally set to expire on November 22, legal representatives for the family and Cook Children’s mutually agreed to extend the restraining order until December 10, giving the Lewis family additional time to look for another medical facility.

Soon after, the hospital filed a motion to recuse Judge Kim from presiding over Tinslee’s case, citing concerns about Kim’s impartiality based on past affiliations with organizations known to oppose the Texas 10-Day Rule and alleged inappropriate methods by which the restraining order was obtained.

On December 4, Cook Children’s motion was granted, pushing the hearing back until December 12 and leading Justice Marion to preside over yesterday’s hearing.  

Prior to yesterday’s hearing, representatives from Texas Right to life, a pro-life nonprofit organization providing legal assistance to the family, said the Lewis family was feeling optimistic moving forward, as potential transfer facilities for Tinslee continued to arise. 

“I’m so grateful that my baby won more time today. A month ago, I thought I was going to lose my baby to this 10-Day Rule. But now we have more time to find a new hospital that will care for her and we want to stop this from happening to any other parents ever again,” Tinslee’s mother, Trinity, said after the verdict was delivered according to Texas Right to Life. 

Tinslee’s case has garnered support from Texas lawmakers, including state representatives Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), and even Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed an amicus brief voicing his support for Tinslee and his opposition to the Texas 10-Day Rule. 

Cook Children’s says they have reached out to more than 20 facilities and pediatric cardiac specialists all of whom have agreed with their decision to withdraw treatment.

Representatives from Cook Children’s, however, say the hospital remains committed to working closely with the Lewis family and to caring for Tinslee while she is in their care.

The hearing for Tinslee Lewis on December 12 was held in the 48th District Court of Fort Worth (Photo courtesy of Texas Right to Life)

In accordance with subsection (g) of the Texas Advance Directives Act, should Justice Marion rule in favor of Cook Children’s, the hospital and family agreed to wait an additional 7 days before the hospital withdraws treatment during which time the family can look for other facilities to willing accept Tinslee.

Once the judge issues a ruling, even if it is before January 2, the 7 days countdown will take immediate effect. 

Although no facilities have officially agreed to accept Tinslee as a patient, the family remains hopeful. Boston Children’s Hospital is reportedly still considering taking Tinslee’s case. 

Timeline of Events

  • February 2019: Tinslee is born prematurely with Ebstein’s anomaly.
  • October 30: The Cook Children’s Ethics Committee decides that treatment should not be continued and informs the Lewis family of their decision.
  • October 31: A letter detailing the decision of the Ethics Committee is delivered to Trinity, beginning the 10-day time frame as stipulated by the Texas Advance Directives Act. 
  • November 20: Cook Children’s files a motion requesting Judge Kim’s recusal from the case, citing concerns of Kim’s ability to remain unbiased and the ways in which the original order was achieved.
  • December 9: Chief Justice Sandee B. Marion of the Fourth Court of Appeals is assigned to the case. 
  • December 10: A hearing to be presided over by Justice Marion is scheduled for December 12.
  • December 12: A temporary injunction hearing is held, resulting in an extension until January 2. 

 

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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.

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