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Tinslee Lewis in Cook Children’s Medical Center, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Anthony Murdoch

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Texas Attorney General joins fight to stop hospital taking baby off life support

Anthony Murdoch
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Tinslee’s mother, Trinity Lewis. cbsnews.com / video screen grab
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

TEXAS, November 28, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has come out in support of a family trying to save their nine-month old girl from being pulled from life support by medical staff at Cook Children’s Medical Center, in Fort Worth, Texas.

Paxton announced a friend-of-the-court brief in aid of Tinslee Lewis, the infant, last week, in direct opposition to the Texas Advance Directives Act, a law that in effect gives families only 10 days to find a new hospital if the hospital that is treating their child decides to stop the treatment. 

“One of the core principles provided by the U.S. Constitution is that no person should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” said Paxton in a statement he gave on November 22.  

“This unconstitutional statute infringes on patients’ right to life and does not allow patients and their families sufficient notice and the opportunity to be heard before physicians override the rights of their patients,” he added.

The controversial Texas Advance Directives Act, signed into law in 1999 by then-Governor of Texas George W. Bush, was designed to allow patients the ability to state their medical wishes into the future. The controversial part of the Act is Section 166.046, in which it states that, (even against the wishes of any existing patients directive), if a doctor gives notification of their refusal to further treat a patient, gets approval from a committee, and no other doctor agrees to take in or help the patient; the hospital is only obligated to provide up to ten days of care before any life-sustaining treatment (which includes dialysis), is removed from patients suffering from a terminal illness. 

The law does allow for parents and family members to attend the committee hearing, and they must be provided advance notice of at least 48 hours before the committee (sans the attending physician) meets.

Baby Tinslee has not left Cook Children’s Medical Center since her birth. She was born prematurely and has undergone intensive surgeries that were needed to treat a serious heart defect and severe chronic pulmonary hypertension, along with lung disease. 

The Texas Advance Directives Act has caused baby Tinslee and her family distress. It has been an uphill yet courageous fight for baby Tinslee’s family since October 31, when doctors at Cook Children’s said they would remove her from life-support on November 10. Hospital physicians claim her condition is too severe to reverse, and that they have done all they can for her. 

After receiving the news of the committee’s findings, Tinslee’s mother, with the help of Texas Right to Life, was able to obtain a temporary restraining order against the hospital until November 22. 

“I thought they was going to pull the plug on my baby. I didn’t think that she was going to still be here today. And that’s what I’m grateful for,” said Tinslee’s mother, Trinity Lewis at a press conference on November 9, according to CNN. “It was a big relief because I’ve been running around all week trying to get help until Sunday, and then I finally got what I’ve been praying for.”

On November 19, 323rd District Judge Alex Kim renewed the temporary restraining order, as reported by Texas Right to Life, which prevents the hospital from taking baby Tinslee off her feeding tube and ventilator. It also gives the Tinslee family until December 10 to find a hospital willing to take the baby in.

On November 15, Cook Children’s filed a motion that requested that Judge Kim be ordered to recuse himself from involvement in the case. 

The hospital claimed that he is “personally biased in the case based on his affiliation with groups that have campaigned against the law under which the hospital tried to end Tinslee’s treatment," as reported in the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram

The contentious Texas Advance Directives Act, according to The Houston Law Review journal, was passed as a compromise to appease both the pro-life camp and those in the medical community. 

"The consensus at the time of passage did not last long because pro-life and disability rights groups grew concerned with how doctors and hospitals implemented the statute's procedures. It became clear that the statute provided doctors with absolute immunity yet provided only 'very weak procedural protections for patients'," as stated in the journal. 

In the past, the Texas Advance Directives Act has caused confusion and ambiguity for other patients caught up in the controversial parts of the law. There are many examples as cited in a 2016 Houston Press article. 

The case of David Chris Dunn is one such example. His mother, Evelyn Kelly, fought hard in opposition from having his life support removed after a doctor-led panel decided that there was nothing more they could do for him. For David, he died naturally on life support, before any machines were removed. This was due to help from Texas Right To Life as well as to the determination of his mother to keep her child alive. 

The fight for baby Tinslee continues. A court hearing is scheduled December 4-5 to decide whether to give a temporary injunction granting baby Tinslee more time beyond the impending December 10 deadline. 

"She deserves the chance to fight for her life, and she's got a troop that will help her 100 per cent and above," Tinslee's great aunt, Beverly Winston, was quoted as saying in a November 23 ABC news article.  

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