A judge has temporarily stopped physicians at Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth from removing a nine-month-old from life support. The hospital says that her health will not improve, but her family is still looking for a facility that will accept and treat her.
Tinslee Lewis was born with Ebstein’s anomaly, a rare heart defect that has required several surgeries to improve heart function. She also has chronic lung disease and severe chronic pulmonary hypertension. Lewis has spent her entire life in the hospital, and has been on a ventilator since July. “Despite our best efforts, her condition is irreversible, meaning it will never be cured or eliminated. Without life-sustaining treatment, her condition is fatal,” a statement from Winifred King, assistant vice president of public relations for Cook Children’s Health Care System. “But more importantly, her physicians believe she is suffering.”
The family told the Star-Telegram that Lewis responds to touch as a normal baby would, but the hospital disagrees. In her condition, “doctors have had to keep her constantly paralyzed and sedated.” the statement reads. “While Tinslee may sometimes appear alert and moving, her movements are the result of being weaned off of the paralyzing drugs. We believe Tinslee is reacting in pain when she’s not sedated and paralyzed.”
But the family wants to keep searching for a cure. “We are just asking for the opportunity to give Tinslee a fighting chance,” Tye Brown, Trinity Lewis’ cousin, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “And we’re not being given that.”
On Oct. 31, the hospital invoked a Texas law that gives the family 10 days to find a new facility that will accept Lewis if the facility determines that the “life-sustaining treatment is not appropriate.” But on Sunday evening, Tarrant County District Judge Alex Kim granted a restraining order that will allow Lewis to keep receiving treatment for a couple more weeks. If no hospital accepts the infant, the hospital can end treatment after Nov. 22.
The hospital says they have reached out to 20 other institutions around the country, including most of the major children’s hospitals in Texas, but not one has agreed to accept the patient.
Nonprofits Texas Right to Life and Protect Texas Fragile Kids have taken up the cause of the Lewis family. “The hospital committee cited no physical health reason for their decision to seize Tinslee’s ventilator against her mother’s will but instead cited their own ‘quality of life’ judgments,” Texas Right to Life said in a statement to the Star-Telegram.
But the hospital sees it differently. “While we believe every child’s life is sacred, we also believe that no child should be sentenced to a life of pain.” King writes. “Removing this beautiful child from mechanical ventilation is a gut-wrenching decision for Cook Children’s physicians and staff, however we feel it is in her best interest to free her from artificial, medical intervention and suffering.”
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