Lawyers from a Fort Worth hospital succeeded in the first part of their legal strategy to end the life of a 9-month-old baby when a visiting judge granted their motion to recuse Judge Alex Kim from hearing the case.

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

No reasons relating to bodily health were given, only a vague “quality-of-life” argument.

Cook Children’s action is legal under Texas’ controversial 10-day rule, which allows a hospital committee to end “life-sustaining care” even if the patient, or his or her surrogate, objects; it also overrides a duly executed medical power of attorney or advance directive from the patient.

Tinslee’s life was temporarily spared when Judge Alex Kim of the 323rd District Court approved a temporary restraining order that lawyers from Texas Right to Life filed on her behalf on November 10—the day she was scheduled to die. A hearing originally set for November 22 was postponed until December 10, after the hospital dispatched its lawyers to try and force Judge Kim to be recused.

On Wednesday, Judge David Peeples, a visiting judge from Bexar County, granted Cook Children’s motion and forced Judge Kim to be recused from the case. The case was assigned to Peeples by Judge David Evans of Tarrant County. An appointee of then-Gov. Rick Perry, Evans oversees all of the judges in Tarrant County. Evans recused himself from this case.

“The judge stated in the record that there was nothing inappropriate with regard to obtaining a restraining order or Judge Kim issuing it,” Joe Nixon, attorney for Tinslee and her mother Trinity, told Texas Scorecard.

“I think the judge was concerned that Judge Kim spoke about the case the next Monday evening at an event and answered questions,” Nixon said.

Nixon believes there was nothing biased in what Judge Kim said and believes him to be “absolutely impartial.”

The restraining order currently keeping Tinslee alive expires on December 10; as of publication, it is unknown when the next hearing will be.

“Don’t know who our judge is, nor do we know the date, time, or place of the temporary injunction [hearing],” Nixon said, adding they are waiting on the Texas Supreme Court to assign a judge to the case.

Nixon also said he had just secured an agreement from Cook Children’s lawyers that they will honor the order and not end life-saving care even if a hearing isn’t set until after the order’s expiration date.

Meanwhile, work is being done to find an alternative facility willing to care for Tinslee.

“[A team is] exploring every avenue with every doctor that they can reach out to,” Nixon said.

Nixon offered ideas of how anyone concerned about Tinslee can help.

“First of all … pray,” he said.

Secondly, Nixon said, those concerned for Tinslee should call their state representatives, state senators, and Gov. Greg Abbott to request a special legislative session.

“And tell them that they need to change [the 10-day rule] law, and Texas Health and Safety Code Section 166.046 needs to be eliminated,” Nixon added. “It is a terrible law. Cooks is following the law perfectly. But the law allows a nameless, faceless committee without any evidentiary record being made, without any medical standard being met, to determine that they’re going to discontinue life-sustaining care to any patient at any time.”

Nixon also pointed out that hospitals that follow the law are given “civil and criminal immunity from any kind of liability.”

Finally, Nixon asked supporters to consider donating to Texas Right to Life, who is helping defend Tinslee’s life.

Information in this article has been updated since publication. 

Robert Montoya

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