The conflict between a North Texas hospital and a mother trying to save her 9-month-old’s life sees another twist after Texas’ Supreme Court reassigned the case to a judge from San Antonio —reversing its prior assignment to the out-of-town judge who forced life-saving Tarrant County District Court Judge Alex Kim into recusal.
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, killing her.
No reasons relating to bodily health were given, 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 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 try and force Judge Kim into recusal: they launched a series of draconian subpoenas in an attempt to frame Kim 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.
Out-of-town Judge Peeples only had authority to approve the motion for Judge Kim’s recusal because the overseer of all Tarrant County judges, Judge David Evans, recused himself and authorized Peeples to make the decision.
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.
Critics believe judges outside of Tarrant County are being assigned the case so that no judge within the county would face the public backlash of signing Tinslee’s death sentence.
The hearing is set for Thursday, December 12 at 9:00 am. The hearing will be at the 48th District Court Room, 4th Floor, 100 North Calhoun Street, Fort Worth, TX 76196.
Nixon has advised those concerned about Tinslee to pray, contact their state representatives and state senators, and contact Gov. Greg Abbott, asking him to call a special session to change the 10-day rule.