FORT WORTH, Texas - A judge on Thursday extended a temporary restraining order through the start of January 2020 that keeps a 10-month-old girl on life support.
Doctors providing Baby Tinslee Lewis life-sustaining care say she is suffering, but her family wanted more time to find potential other treatment options. A temporary restraining order currently in place requiring Cook Children’s Medical Center to continue caring for Tinslee was extended by the judge.
Judge Sandee Marion from San Antonio heard from doctors and a member from the hospital’s ethics committee among other witnesses before making her decision. She determined there was still time for the family to find other treatment options. The judge will reevaluate the TRO before its new expiration date of January 2, 2020.
Tinslee was born prematurely in February with a rare, incurable heart defect and has spent her entire life in the hospital’s intensive care unit. She relies on a ventilator and a feeding tube.
The hospital said Tinslee has already undergone several complex surgeries to try to improve her condition but also suffers from chronic lung disease and severe chronic pulmonary hypertension.
Doctors now believe her condition is irreversible and that she is suffering, the hospital said. Cook Children’s officials said they have already reached out to 19 other medical facilities across the country and all have agreed with their assessment.
"There is nothing about Tinslee's current care that is natural for a child reaching their first birthday,” testified Cook Children’s pediatrics Dr. Jay Duncan.
He explained Tinslee requires full respiratory and cardiac support and deep sedation to avoid further deterioration of her condition.
Kara Lane, one of Tinslee's ICU nurses, testified that certain indicators like a change in heart rate or movement signify to medical staff that Tinslee is in pain. She said on the stand “taking care of Tinslee has been emotionally difficult for myself and the nursing staff. Because we are inflicting pain and suffering... on her for no good outcome.”
Dr. Duncan also testified about conversations he's had with Tinslee's mother about continuing Tinslee’s treatment.
"She said it was her faith in God that God had not given her a sign that she needed to stop,” Dr. Duncan said.
But Tinslee’s family believes she still has a fighting chance. Her mother, Trinity Lewis, is relieved to have the chance to spend the holidays with her child.
“She’s made it this far. I know she going to continue to fight for her life,” Lewis said. “She’s actually doing good today. She’s had a good day. And she’s been doing good.”
Tinslee remains on a ventilator.
“Her life matters. That’s her only baby,” a spokesman for Lewis’ mother said.
The Lewis family’s attorney, Joe Nixon, reiterated in court that this fight is not against Cook Children's, but against the state's so-called 10-day rule under which hospitals can withdraw life support if the patient’s condition is irreversible.
Activists and state lawmakers including State Rep. Tan Parker and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are supporting the family. A representative with the attorney general’s office spoke out against the law and told the judge it does not allow due process.
“The fundamental question is does Trinity get the right to decide the fate of her child? Or does a nameless, faceless committee with no guidelines, evidentiary standard or right of appeal?” Nixon said.
“It’s not fair,” Lewis said. “And I don’t feel as if it’s their right to take somebody’s life because they want to stop treating it.”
The original judge on the case was removed after the hospital filed a motion alleging concerns over bias.
Judge Marion told the court during her ruling she needed time to research and review any additional briefings from the attorneys. She just got the case this week. However, she did say that her court will make a decision on or before January 2.