Today, a judge from San Antonio ruled that a North Texas hospital can stop treating an 11-month-old baby, leaving the baby’s family scrambling to save her life.
Baby 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 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, which allows a hospital committee to end “life-sustaining care” even if the patient, or his or her surrogate, objects; the law 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 in Tarrant County approved a temporary restraining order filed by lawyers from Texas Right to Life on November 10—the day she was scheduled to die.
However, the hospital dispatched its lawyers to force Judge Kim into recusal, launching a series of harassing subpoenas in an attempt to frame him as being partial.
Though it’s unclear if the subpoenas worked, Judge Kim was ultimately kicked off of the case by out-of-town Judge David Peeples of Bexar County.
“[Judge Peeples] stated in the record that there was nothing inappropriate with regard to obtaining a restraining order or Judge Kim issuing it,” Joe Nixon, the attorney for Tinslee and her mother, told Texas Scorecard.
Peeples only had the authority to remove Judge Kim because the overseer of all Tarrant County judges, Judge David Evans, recused himself and handed the responsibility to Peeples.
Critics believe Evans made this decision because no Tarrant County judge wants to face the public backlash of signing Tinslee’s death sentence.
Following Kim’s recusal, on December 6, Texas’ Supreme Court decided Peeples should be the one to preside over the hearing on Kim’s restraining order; three days later, however, the court reassigned the case to Chief Justice Sandee Marion of the Fourth District Court of Appeals in San Antonio.
On December 12, Judge Marion extended temporary protection for Tinslee, reserving a final decision until January 2, 2020.
Since then, a bipartisan group of 16 members of the Texas Legislature signed a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott asking him to call a special session to repeal the 10-day-rule. On December 19, Bobby Schindler, brother of the late Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was removed from life support against the will of her family in 2005, expressed support for Tinslee and her continued care.
Despite the swelling support to save Tinslee’s life and end the 10-day rule, Judge Marion today issued a judgment refusing to protect the baby.
“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 in a statement.
“I feel frustrated because anyone in that courtroom would want more time—just like I do—if Tinslee were their baby. I hope that we can keep fighting through an appeal to protect Tinslee. She deserves the right to live. Please keep praying for Tinslee, and thank you for supporting us during this difficult time.”
The family is appealing today’s decision and will continue fighting to save Tinslee’s life.
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.