Shortly after a judge decided to enforce a North Texas hospital’s death sentence on an 11-month-old baby, Texas’ governor released a statement but refused to call a special session to repeal the law that has caused such chaos for the baby and her family.

Baby Tinslee Lewis was born with congenital heart disease and is currently at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, relying on a ventilator to live. On October 31, despite the objections of her mother, the hospital announced it would remove Tinslee’s ventilator on November 10.

As justification for this decision, the hospital did not provide any reasons relating to bodily health—only a vague “quality-of-life” argument.

The hospital’s action is legal under Texas’ controversial 10-day rule. According to Texas Right to Life, this law allows a hospital committee to end “life-sustaining care” even if the patient—or his or her surrogate—objects.

“The 10-day rule nullifies a patient’s valid advance directive requesting such treatment, a duly executed medical power of attorney, or the decision of a legitimate surrogate like a spouse or adult child.”

In the 2019 Texas legislative session, Texas Right to Life supported “pro-life, pro-patients’ rights” bills House Bill 3158 and Senate Bill 2089. Both bills would have brought key reforms to healthcare in Texas, including:

  • [Revoking] the unilateral power of the hospital’s committee to impose a death sentence on a patient who wishes to live;
  • [Ensuring] that the medical decisions of Texas patients and their families on basic life-sustaining treatment are honored until the patient is transferred to another physician or facility;

These bills died alongside many other conservative reforms in the 2019 “purple session,” leaving the 10-day rule intact.

Thursday, Chief Justice Sandee Marion of the Fourth District Court of Appeals from San Antonio refused to protect Tinslee from Cook Children’s invocation of the 10-day rule.

Shortly after the ruling, Gov. Greg Abbott released a joint statement with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton promising continued “support” in exhausting “all legal options to ensure that Tinslee is given every chance at life.” The statement says the attorney general’s office will be “supporting an appeal of this case to the Second Court of Appeals” and all the way to the Texas Supreme Court “if necessary.”

Nowhere in Gov. Abbott’s statement does he address the root of the problem: the unjust 10-day rule.

Last month, prompted by Tinslee’s struggle, a bipartisan group of 16 members of the Texas legislature signed a letter to Abbott asking him to call a special session to repeal the law.

To date, Abbott has refused to respond to this public call for a special session.

“I am heartbroken over today’s decision because the judge basically said Tinslee’s life is NOT worth living,” Trinity Lewis, Tinslee’s mother, said. The family is appealing today’s decision and will continue the fight to save their baby’s life.

Sadly, Tinslee’s life, and the life of many Texans, will not be safe in any Texas hospital until the 10-day rule is repealed.

Those concerned about Tinslee’s fate are encouraged to contact Gov. Abbott and ask for a special session to repeal the unjust 10-day rule.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.