At a press conference Monday morning, the mother of an 11-month-old baby decried an unjust Texas law that has put her child’s life at risk. Gov. Greg Abbott has offered public support but refused to call a special legislative session to repeal this law.
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, the hospital announced it would remove Tinslee’s life support on November 10, despite the objections of her mother.
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.
Trinity Lewis, Tinslee’s mother, challenged the hospital’s position during Monday’s press conference. “Cook has been saying that Tinslee has pulmonary hypertension,” Lewis said. “But several really great doctors who do not work for Cook reviewed her medical records in December and said they do not see any signs of pulmonary hypertension.”
There is an ongoing effort to move Tinslee to another facility, but a hurdle must be cleared before that becomes possible.
“There are viable medical options that are reasonable for baby Tinslee,” said Hannah Mehta, executive director of Texas for Fragile Kids. “But, in order for those to be options down the road, there are some things medically, like a tracheotomy, [that must be performed].”
“I have asked Cook to trach Tinslee since July,” Lewis said. To date, the operation has not been performed.
“If Cook will allow it, a physician can come in here and trach her,” Joe Nixon, the attorney representing Tinslee, added. “There are a lot of impediments to that happening, but we are asking Cook to either do it now or allow someone else to come in and do it.”
Tinslee’s family was sent scrambling last Thursday when Chief Justice Sandee Marion of the Fourth District Court of Appeals from San Antonio ruled Cook Children’s could allow Tinslee to die under the 10-day rule.
On Friday, the Texas Court of Appeals granted an emergency injunction temporarily sparing Tinslee’s life pending a hearing or future decision of the court.
Earlier that week, 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.”
When asked if Abbott and Paxton have done all they can legally do to save Tinslee’s life, Nixon directly replied, “The governor can call a special session and ask the legislature to repeal the statute.”
“My biggest priority is getting Tinslee appropriate care so I can make the best decision for my baby,” Lewis said Monday. “But my voice and my wishes for my daughter mean nothing under this 10-day rule.”
Texas Scorecard asked Lewis if she ever thought she would face a situation like this in a hospital. “No, not at all,” she replied. “I never thought that I would have to go through something like this at all.”
When asked how her baby is doing, Lewis said, “[Tinslee’s] doing good. She’s been awake.”
“She’s active, as well. She’s not just like asleep. She like [acknowledges that we’re there]. When you come into the room, you touch her, you talk to her, she knows that [we’re] there,” Lewis said.
“My fear is them pulling the plug on her without me … basically, me not being able to make the decision for her.”
“We’re all in danger here if this law stays in place,” Nixon said, “because we’ve taken away the decision of life that belongs either to the patient or the patient’s family and given it to a nameless, faceless committee.” When asked what advice could be given to other families who might face a similar situation under the 10-day rule, Nixon said, “Say, ‘No, we don’t agree,’ and go get help.”
The Texas Court of Appeals set January 23 as a deadline to receive briefs on this case. As no hearing date has yet been set, it is unknown how much longer Tinslee’s family must fight.
The cause of all of this, the 10-day rule, is one of the many items the Texas Legislature failed to act on during the 2019 “purple session.” Abbott could give Tinslee, and others, a chance at life by calling a special session to repeal the rule.
Those concerned about baby Tinslee and the 10-day rule may contact Abbott here.