Texas hospital ordered to keep 11-month-old Tinslee Lewis on life support: 'This is a prayer answered'

Tinslee Lewis
Tinslee Lewis, a 9-month-old baby girl at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. |

A Texas appeals court has agreed to delay a judge’s ruling that would have allowed a hospital to end life-sustaining treatment for an 11-month-old girl despite her mother’s objections. 

On Friday, the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ordered Cook Children's Medical Center to not remove Tinslee Lewis from life support until it makes a final ruling in the case, according to Texas Right to Life, the pro-life group advocating for Tinslee. The order was handed down just one day after a judge denied the extension of a restraining order keeping the baby on life support. 

Born premature, Tinslee has a rare, incurable heart defect and relies on a feeding tube. Since July, she's also been on a ventilator machine that helps her breathe due to a chronic lung disease. According to doctors, the little girl is in pain and will not get better.

Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life, said her organization was “grateful and relieved” the appeals court had granted the emergency stay, adding the action would give her group more time to contact doctors and hospitals who could treat Tinslee.

“This gives us so much hope for Tinslee,” Schwartz said. “This is a prayer answered.”

Doctors at the Fort Worth hospital had planned to remove Tinslee from life support on Nov. 10 after invoking Texas’ "10-day rule." The rule, which can be employed when a family disagrees with doctors who say life-sustaining treatment should be stopped, stipulates treatment can be withdrawn after 10 days if a new provider can’t be found to take the patient.

In a statement, hospital officials said they had reached “out to more than 20, well-respected healthcare facilities and specialists over the course of several months,” but all agreed that further care is futile. 

With the support of Texas Right to Life, Tinslee’s mother, Trinity Lewis, had fought to keep her daughter on life support. Texas Right to Life opposes the 10-day rule, arguing it “allows hospitals to make decisions that strip away patients’ rights to life and due process against their family’s wishes, a grave injustice is committed.”

“I want to be able to make that decision for her,” Trinity said. “She’s made it this far. I know she’s going to continue to fight for her life.”

Ahead of Friday’s ruling, state Attorney General Ken Paxton, Gov. Greg Abbott and the state’s solicitor general sent a letter to the appeals court, asking it to delay the judge’s order.

“This case presents a life-or-death decision,” said Paxton. “The right-to-life and the guarantee of due process are of the utmost importance not only to baby Tinslee and her family, but to all Texans. I will continue to fight for Tinslee and my office will continue to use all necessary resources to ensure that she will not be deprived of her right to live.” 

The date of the appeal is not yet set. The same Second Court of Appeals will hear Tinslee’s appeal.

Tinslee’s case echoes the debate over Charlie Gard, a terminally ill British infant who died in 2017 amid debate over whether he should remain on a ventilator. The case garnered global attention because of the implications it had for the rights of parents to determine the best course of medical care for their children.

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