A judge on Thursday gave a hospital permission to take an 11-month-girl off life support against her family’s wishes in a closely-watched case that has drawn in the state’s attorney general and Texas Right to Life.
The family of Tinslee Lewis plans to appeal the ruling.
Tinslee’s mother, Trinity Lewis, said she was “heartbroken” by the judge’s decision. “The judge basically said Tinslee’s life is NOT worth living. I feel frustrated because anyone in that courtroom would want more time just like I do if Tinslee were their baby,” Lewis said in a statement released by Texas Right to Life, which represents the family.
“I hope that we can keep fighting through an appeal to protect Tinslee. She deserves the right to live,” the mother said.
Texas Right to Life slammed the ruling by a judge in the state’s 48th judicial district court as sentencing “an innocent 11-month-old” to death.
Tinslee was born prematurely in February with a rare heart defect. She hasn’t left the Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth since birth, according to the hospital.
In July, she went into respiratory arrest and has since been on a machine that replaces the function of her heart and lungs in addition to being on a ventilator. Doctors also believe she is in pain, and said she “requires significant sedation,” the hospital said in a December statement.
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Under Texas law, a hospital’s doctors, with the approval of the facility’s ethics committee, can end a patient’s lifesaving treatments even if the patient or the family member responsible for making decisions on behalf of the patient objects.
The patient’s family must be given at least 10 days to try to find another hospital to transfer the person to before care is suspended, according to the Texas Tribune.
A district judge in November ordered the hospital to continue treatment until at least Dec. 10., and that order was later extended.
Texas Right to Life said in its statement that it “is disappointed that the ruling not only disregarded the Constitution, but also sentenced an innocent 11-month-old baby to death like a criminal.”
“The 10-Day Rule has robbed countless patients of their Right to Life and right to due process,” the statement said.
Trinity Lewis said last month that she believes her daughter deserves more of a chance to survive.
“This isn’t Tinslee’s first rodeo. She’s made it this far. I know she’s going to continue to fight for her life,” Lewis said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, filed a brief with the court siding with the family. He said in a statement in November that the hospital’s decision to remove Tinslee from life support “directly violates the mother’s request and her daughter’s right to life” and that the state law is “unconstitutional.”
Cook Children’s Medical Center said it reached out to more than 20 specialized homes and hospitals, none of which would agree to accept Tinslee as a patient.
At a hearing in December, Dr. Jay Duncan, one of Tinslee’s physicians, said that she has undergone at least a half-dozen surgeries, and that her doctors have run out of options to treat her.
He also said she is in pain.
“Changing a diaper causes pain. Suctioning her breathing tube causes pain. Being on the ventilator causes pain,” Duncan said, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
Duncan said there had been “many, many” conversations with Tinslee’s family about her physical state. “We care a lot about Tinslee,” he said. “We care a lot about her family.”
Cook Children’s echoed this view in a December statement, saying “Our doctors and nurses have done everything humanely possible to save Tinslee’s life. Currently, any care we provide, including feeding, bathing and providing treatments and medication, can cause her little body to experience a medical crisis, which causes even more intervention and pain for her.”