A Texas judge ruled Thursday that a hospital’s plan to remove an 11-month-old girl from life support over her family’s objections could proceed, the latest twist in a case that has drawn notice from conservatives around the state.
The child, Tinslee Lewis, was born premature and suffers from a rare heart defect and other health issues, according to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, where she had been treated for 11 months. Doctors there had done everything possible to save Tinslee’s life, but ultimately concluded that they could not do so, the hospital said in a statement.
The case has become a rallying cry for conservative politicians and some religious groups, and Tinslee’s mother, Trinity Lewis, has received legal support from the group Texas Right to Life, according to its website. The group opposes what’s known as the 10-day rule, a state policy that puts a temporary stop on the withdrawal of life support if a family objects. Some opponents of the policy object to the hospital, rather than the family, having the final say over whether life support is removed at the end of the 10-day delay.
“I want to be the one to make the decision for her,” Lewis said at a hearing last month, according to The Associated Press.
The delay is intended to allow families time to find other medical facilities willing to take such patients and keep them on life support. Cook Children said that it had reached out to more than 20 facilities and specialists to continue caring for Tinslee, but that none would agree to accept her.
“Cook Children’s has been devoted to this precious baby her entire life, providing compassionate, round-the-clock, intensive care and attention since she arrived at our hospital 11 months ago,” the hospital’s statement said.
But it maintained that she was suffering from severe sepsis, and was heavily medicated with painkillers, sedatives and paralytics.
“Her body is tired. She is suffering,” the statement said.
The hospital had planned to remove life support in November, after its ethics committee agreed with an assessment by medical experts. Another judge blocked that step before he was removed from the case when the hospital raised questions about his impartiality.
Lewis had asked another judge, Chief Justice Sandee Bryan Marion of the state’s 4th Court of Appeals, to grant an injunction stopping the hospital from removing life support. Marion denied that request Thursday.
Joseph M. Nixon, a lawyer for Lewis, said that he had filed a notice of appeal and would file a motion for emergency relief Thursday afternoon, effectively stopping the hospital from removing Tinslee from life support.
The hospital agreed not to take any action to remove life support for a week to give Nixon and his team time to file those motions.
Nixon added that a team of supporters was still trying to find another medical facility that would take Tinslee.
“The culprit in this case is the statute,” he said in a brief phone interview, referring to the so-called 10-day rule.
The case has attracted attention throughout the state. In December, a group of 16 state lawmakers cited the case in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott urging him to call lawmakers into a special session to repeal the 10-day rule.
In November, the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Lewis’ case, arguing that letting the hospital withdraw life support would violate the constitutional right to life.
“Patients must be heard and justly represented when determining their own medical treatment, especially when the decision to end treatment could end their life,” he said at the time.