A Texas hospital is fighting to remove 23-month-old Tinslee Lewis from life support against her mother’s will.
Cook Children’s Medical Center has been in an ongoing court battle with Tinslee’s mother, Trinity Lewis, since November 2019, according to WFAA-TV. After deciding further treatment of Tinslee’s congenital heart defect would be futile, the hospital moved to discontinue care under the Texas Advance Directives Act.
The statute, also known as the 10-day rule, gives patients or legal guardians a little more than a week to locate a new doctor or treatment facility should the hospital committee at the current location decline to continue treatment. At the end of the review period, the hospital may withdraw life-sustaining care, even if this action results in the patient’s death.
The organization has previously challenged the law by helping people like Tinslee’s mother advocate for life-affirming medical care for their loved ones. The group has also sought to have the law repealed due to ethical concerns.
Kim Schwartz, the director of media and communication at Texas Right to Life, is one of the pro-life voices helping to spread awareness about the impact the law has on patients’ lives.
“Under this law, doctors and hospitals can end the lives of patients,” Schwartz told The Western Journal. “They can hasten their deaths by withdrawing life-sustaining treatment like a ventilator or dialysis. And even up until 2015, this included food and water so they could then starve and dehydrate patients to death.”
According to the Texas Right to Life website, the 10-day rule even allows hospitals to ignore the wishes of a conscious patient who has expressed the desire to remain alive.
“We feel really great about our chances in the court because, again, reasonable people can see that this law is unjust and that it is unconstitutional,” Schwartz said. “And tragically, most times when people find out about the 10-day rule, it’s when it’s happening to their own families.”
“Imagine this countdown being placed upon your family. If you’re not a lawyer or a doctor, you probably don’t know what to do in that situation.”
After the case worked its way through the lower courts, attorneys for the hospital asked the Texas Supreme Court in August to expedite a ruling on the case, but the motion was denied in October. Just last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a subsequent plea for authority to remove Tinslee from life support as legal battles continued in the interim.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to take up the case has kicked it back to the 48th District, where a decision in favor of the family could serve to delegitimize the 10-day rule.
During a news conference in January 2020, Trinity Lewis revealed that, despite what the hospital had said, Tinslee’s health had not hindered her ability to live. Both Lewis and her legal team attested that they had seen the toddler display emotional reactions when interacting with her family or watching cartoons on television.
Instead of withdrawing treatment as the hospital recommended, Lewis discussed her hopes of finding medical professionals who would help her daughter live for as long as possible.
“I think there is no one in the world who loves Tinslee Lewis more than Trinity Lewis does,” Schwartz said. “She is such a strong encouragement to me and all of our family at Texas Right to Life because she’s a mother first and foremost.”
The pro-life advocate then noted that society tends to view ailing patients and the unborn through a similar lens. Schwartz said that people tend to overlook them both by assuming they are better off dead.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh well, these patients are going to die soon anyways,” she said. “But Tinslee has been fighting for over a year. We’ve had patients who we helped years and years ago who are still alive today.”
She pointed out that another problem with laws like the 10-day rule is that they do not abide by any specific criteria. The rationale for withdrawing care can vary from hospital to hospital, and the decision is often subjectively based on whether the treatment facility believes the patient’s life would be worth living.
“A lot of proponents of the law will say, ‘Well, I wouldn’t want my child to be in that situation. I wouldn’t want my child to live on a ventilator,’” Schwartz said.
“But at the end of the day, wouldn’t you want the choice to be yours? Whether or not you would choose those specific treatment options for your child, you would want to be the one who dictates your child’s care.”
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