On Tuesday, the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth heard oral arguments in the case of Tinslee Lewis.
In early January, Chief Justice Sandee B. Marion denied a temporary injunction filed on behalf of the Lewis family, thereby allowing Cook Children’s hospital to end life sustaining treatment for the infant in accordance with the Texas-10 Day Rule.
Shortly after this ruling on January 2, the Second Court of Appeals granted a motion filed on behalf of the Lewis family preventing the hospital from ending treatment while the case went through the appellate process.
Born prematurely last February, baby Tinslee suffers from Ebstein’s anomaly, a rare congenital heart condition that impedes her ability to breathe and maintain normal heart functions without medical assistance.
In accordance with the Texas 10-Day Rule under the Texas Advance Directives Act, Cook Children’s hospital, who has been treating the infant since her birth last February, informed the Lewis family of their intention to remove the baby from life support after determining a path to recovery wasn’t foreseeable.
In court on Tuesday, legal representatives for the Lewis family and Cook Children’s hospital were each given 15 minutes to present their arguments with an additional five minutes for rebuttal.
Arguments were heard by a panel composed of three judges, including Justice Lee Gabriel, Justice Wade Birdwell, and Justice Mike Wallach.
Since informing the Lewis family of their decision to invoke the 10-Day rule last October, the hospital has argued that baby Tinslee is suffering and “should be allowed to pass naturally… rather than artificially kept alive by painful treatments.”
From this perspective, Cook Children’s also argued this week that medical providers have the right to refuse care if they believe an action to be in violation of their conscience or ethical beliefs.
Moreover, the hospital argues that the 10-Day Rule is constitutional, despite claims from opponents that it is not, while alleging that arguments against the statute made by representatives of the Lewis family are “premised on a misreading of (statute) 166.046.”
On the other side, attorney for the Lewis family, Joe Nixon, described the statute as unconstitutional and “hopelessly flawed.”
Additionally, Nixon contends the rule violates Tinslee’s right to life and right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
Tinslee’s mother, Trinity, has also challenged Cook Children’s claim that Tinslee is suffering, citing “significant improvement” in the last few weeks.
The Lewis family has garnered bipartisan support from prominent Texas lawmakers, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton in addition to various other state representatives.
In December, 16 members of the state legislature sent a bipartisan letter to Gov. Abbott advocating for baby Tinslee and requesting a special session be called to repeal the 10-Day Rule.
Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott issued a joint statement on behalf of Tinslee Lewis, urging the Second Court of Appeals to “protect the life of this baby girl.”
“Patients must be heard and justly represented when it comes to determining their medical treatment…Life is the first constitutionally protected interest, and this case is a matter of life and death for a defenseless child,” Attorney Paxton said in a statement.
The Attorney General previously filed an amicus brief in support of Tinslee.
Cook Children’s, however, has also garnered support from a number of organizations including Texas Alliance for Life and the Texas Medical Association among others who filed amicus briefs of their own in support of the hospital.
The Catholic Health Association of Texas also sent a letter to Gov. Abbott in support of Cook Children’s and the 10-Day Rule.
Regarding this week’s appellate hearing, Cook Children’s issued a statement emphasizing their commitment to providing “compassionate care,” though Tinslee is not mentioned specifically.
“When a child comes to us in a compromised condition, no reasonable effort is spared… While every patient’s journey looks different, our commitment to them never fades as we keep pressing forward to put our patients’ needs above our own and working hard to give each child the very best care they deserve,” the statement reads.
On February 1, Tinslee celebrated her first birthday to the great joy of her family, who say she is “surrounded by so much love.”
“I’m so grateful – because when we had just the10 days in November, I thought her life would be over. But since then, Tinslee has kept fighting, her doctors and nurses tell me she’s improving, and now she’s one year old,” Trinity said of Tinslee’s birthday.
Though there is no indication about when the court will make a final ruling, Tinslee will remain on life support while the case is decided.
The appellate court will decide whether or not to grant a temporary injunction on behalf of the Lewis family moving forward.
Read a full recap of baby 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.
January 3: An appellate court grants an emergency motion requiring Cook Children’s to continue providing medical treatment to Tinslee throughout the appeals process.
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- 10-Day Rule
- Attorney General Ken Paxton
- Catholic Health Association of Texas
- Cook Children's hospital
- Fort Worth
- Gov. Abbott
- Joe Nixon
- Lee Gabriel
- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
- Mike Wallach
- Sandee B. Marion
- Second Court of Appeals
- Texas Advance Directives Act
- Texas Alliance for Life
- Texas Medical Association
- Tinslee Lewis
- Trinity Lewis
- Wade Birdwell
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.