Hours before 9-month-old Tinslee Lewis was scheduled to be taken off of life support against her family’s wishes at Cooks Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Tarrant County Judge Alex Kim signed a temporary restraining order effective through November 23 preventing the hospital from withdrawing treatment.
“We secured a temporary restraining order this afternoon, preventing Texas’ Ten Day Law from claiming Baby Tinslee’s life. We have a hearing on the 22nd,” Texas Right to Life attorney Emily Kebodeaux Cook said.
Citing the so-called “10-Day Rule,” Cook Children’s informed Tinslee’s mother, Trinity, on October 31 that the 9-month-old would be removed from life support ten days later based on a decision made by the hospital who felt it had done all it could do for the ailing infant.
Born prematurely, baby Tinslee suffers from Ebstein anomaly, a rare heart defect causing her heart to press against her lungs, requiring the assistance of a ventilator to breathe.
“A team of Cook Children’s doctors, nurses and staff have given their all to help Tinslee. While we believe every child’s life is sacred, we also believe that no child should be sentenced to a life of pain. Removing this beautiful child from mechanical ventilation is a gut-wrenching decision for Cook Children’s physicians and staff, however we feel it is in her best interest to free her from artificial, medical intervention and suffering,” Cook Children’s said in an official statement.
In accordance with the Texas Advance Directives Act, the Texas 10-Day Rule authorizes hospitals to provide ten days of advance notice to the families of patients for whom they determine there to be no path to recovery before they stop providing care.
The ten days are meant to allow families time to find a different healthcare provider or seek a court injunction.
Importantly, however, hospitals can choose to delay or continue treatment at any time.
The provision has been criticized by organizations and lawmakers alike for being outdated in nature and not providing sufficient time for the families of patients to find alternative healthcare and/or seek legal assistance.
The Carolyn Jones case earlier this year highlighted the difficulties that the law’s timeframe can place on families seeking to find additional treatment options for their loved ones.
At a press conference following the announcement of the restraining order, state Reps. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) and Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), alongside representatives from Texas Right to Life, described the Texas rule as not fitting “with Texas values.”
Texas Right to Life, a non-profit advocacy organization that championed ending the Texas 10-Day Rule earlier this year during the legislative session, is currently working on behalf of the Lewis family to provide legal assistance.
Prior to today’s restraining order, the organization urged the public to contact the administration at Cook Children’s in an effort to convince the hospital not to remove baby Tinslee from life support.
Hours before baby Tinslee was scheduled to be taken off life support, Kimberlyn Schwartz, a representative of Texas Right to Life working closely with the Lewis family, described the family and organization as “racing against the clock … praying these are not Tinslee’s last moments.”
She continued by discussing the hostility with which the Lewis family has been treated throughout Tinslee’s time there, attributing the “disdain toward the family” to the public attention the case has drawn.
In a statement for The Texan, Rep. Tinderholt echoed similar sentiments describing the treatment of Tinslee’s mother in particular as “despicable.”
According to Rep. Tinderholt, Tinslee’s mother told him she was forbidden from taking pictures of Tinslee by the charge nurse at Cook Children’s who cited publicity and media attention garnered by the case as the basis for her decision.
“If this indeed was said, that is horrific and very possibly against the law to not be allowed to take a picture of your own child in their hospital room,” Tindherholt said.
In spite of this, however, a family member of baby Tinslee’s still expressed gratitude towards the staff at Cook Children’s and to both Reps. Tinderholt and Parker who have given their support to the Lewis family.
“My prayer today was to thank God for you guys and for all the people around and the nurses in the hospital. I can only imagine how worked up they have been to see such a little person suffering at no fault of her own,” she said.
Both Reps. Tinderholt and Parker also complimented the staff at Cook Children’s for the care and treatment they have provided, despite the invocation of the Texas 10-Day Rule.
A cousin of Tinslee’s also expressed gratitude to Texas Right to Life and Medically Fragile Kids Texas, describing them as “the two advocates who really stepped in and helped us advocate.”
Cook Children’s says they have reached out to nearly 20 facilities throughout the country to find a different healthcare facility for Tinslee. However, “all have said our assessment is correct and they feel there is nothing more they can provide to help improve this precious child’s life.”
The temporary restraining order is effective through November 23 with a hearing scheduled for November 22.
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.