Baby gets reprieve for life
Mother continues to fight for daughter’s life
“10 day rule” constant threat until now
By Jeff McCoy
Tinslee Lewis has fought every day of her entire 11-month life. Born premature with a rare heart defect and suffering from chronic lung disease and severe chronic high blood pressure, she has to have full respiratory and cardiac support. She does have a loving mother that is working hard for her. Most mothers would want to be by their daughter’s side to comfort and love her knowing that the medical staff is doing all they can for their infant.
This case is a little different. Not only does Tinslee’s mother Trinity Lewis have the worries of her infant’s health she also has to fight for her baby’s life. The doctors that most parents would trust with their family’s well being are the ones trying to end her daughter’s life.
The “10-day-rule” in Texas allows a hospital committee to decide when a patient is no longer worth working with and can terminate that patient’s life by removing life support – even if the patient, the patient’s family or medical power of attorney object.
Is there such a law? Can it take a person’s life? Yes. The Texas Advance Directives Act of 1999, signed into law by then-governor George W. Bush, allows a health care facility to “discontinue life-sustaining treatment ten days after giving written notice if the continuation of life-sustaining treatment is considered futile care” by the doctors and staff at a hospital where the patient is being treated.
One of the first children to have life-saving care withdrawn was six-month-old Sun Hudson. Hudson had a congenital malformation and on March 15, 2005, the hospital stopped life-saving medical care for their patient. The ethics committee review stated that keeping the infant on a respirator would only delay his inevitable death.
Hudson was born to Wanda Hudson on September 25, 2004, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston. In a few short months, she was told that her child’s breathing tube should be removed because the infant “most likely” wouldn’t survive the disease. The mother objected.
Texas Children's Hospital personnel removed the breathing tube. The official report states that he was sedated, and died in under a minute. Wanda Hudson, who was beside her child’s deathbed, told reporters that this was not the case, "I wanted y'all to see my son for yourself, so you could see he was actually moving around. He was conscious."
The total number of patients that have died under this law is hard to determine. Dr. Robert Fine, director of the Office of Clinical Ethics for the Baylor Health Care System collected information from 16 hospitals in the state of Texas covering five years of ethics committee consultations.
He found that the committees were consulted 974 times over the medical futility cases. Out of those cases, the hospitals agreed with the attending physicians that life-support should end. The hospitals, according to the Dr. Fine report, withdrew treatment in 27 cases. Of those 22 patients died awaiting transfers to another hospital or medical facility.
Cook Children’s Medical Center decided to notify Trinity Lewis of their intention to remove Tinslee from life-support. The mother opposed it completely and went to court. Lewis had a victory on November 10 when Tarrant County Juvenile Court Judge Alex Kim issued a temporary restraining order to stop the removal of life support.
The hospital challenged that decision in part alleging he bypassed the case assignment protocol and made himself the presiding judge. He was removed and Texas Fourth Court of Appeals chief justice Sandee Bryan Marion was assigned to hear the request for an injunction in Tarrant County district court.
On Jan 2 Marion was asked by Tinslee’s mother to issue an injunction to ensure that Cook Children’s Medical Center doesn’t end her daughter’s life-sustaining treatment. Marion sided with the hospital and allowed the support to be withdrawn.
“I feel frustrated because anyone in that courtroom would want more time just like I do if Tinslee were their baby. I am heartbroken over today’s decision because the judge basically said Tinslee’s life is not worth living,” Lewis said. She plans to continue to fight for her infant’s life.
The hospital stated, “Even with the most extraordinary measures the medical team is taking, Tinslee continues to suffer.” An agreement was reached between the mother and hospital that if the court ruled to end the baby’s life the hospital would wait at least seven days before taking Tinslee off life-support. Marion said the seven-day period would give the girl’s mother time to file a notice of appeal and a motion for emergency relief with a state court of appeals.
With pride, Lewis described her daughter as “sassy” and noted she likes getting her nails done but isn’t fond of having her hair brushed. She said, “I want to be the one to make the decision for her.”
Hannah Mehta, of Protect Texas Fragile Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children, got involved with the fight in November. She sees hope for the struggling baby. “As far as available options and other facilities, I would say there has been a lot of complicating factors in seeking alternative facilities. When we became involved in this case in Nov once the 10-day rule was invoked the medical information that we were given which was purportedly provided to the 20 other institutions by Cook Children’s was actually over three months old which made it very problematic for physicians to provide an option on her current status. We have spoken to quite a few. There are a number of surgeons that have told us that this case is not a hopeless case. There are viable medical options that are reasonable for baby Tinslee.”
Even state lawmakers felt changes needed to be made to protect the most vulnerable in society. In December 16 members of the Texas Legislature sent a bipartisan letter to Governor Greg Abbott.
They asked the Governor to call a special session so they could appeal the law. Texas Right to Life Legislative Director John Seago stated, “This Texas law is unprecedented, unconstitutional, and unethical. Respect for vulnerable patients’ dignity and autonomy means we should first listen to the patient and surrogates on these basic life and death decisions. We are grateful for the action of these bold legislators in calling for a special session to remove this 20-year-old injustice from our laws.”
Then the Governor steps into the fight.
An appeal was filed by Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in The Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth. On Jan 6 that court ruled in favor of Baby Tinslee and the family and order the hospital to keep Tinslee on life support until it makes a final ruling in the case.
“This case presents a life-or-death decision. 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,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said.
The fight is not over.
Staff reporter Jeff McCoy can be reached at email@example.com
High price to pay for Christians in Turkey
Jinwook Kim, a pastor from South Korea, was killed in Turkey on November 22. A 16-year old male has been charged with the murder. Kim’s death was attributed to a robbery since his phone was missing however several people have told Christian Solidarity Worldwide-USA, a Christian organization advocating for religious freedom for all peoples and faiths, that they believe the pastor was targeted because of his faith.
Resentment and hate against Christians have been building over the years. In October 2019, billboards advertised a massage encouraging Muslims not to befriend Jews and Christians in the city of Konya.
Claire Evans, International Christian Concern Regional Manager for the Middle East, said that the “grief among Turkey’s Christian community is strongly felt, along with great shock and fear,” following the killing. Martyrdom is not normal in Turkey, and this incident sadly shows just how much the country has changed,” as reported by Christian Broadcasting Network.
“Just this year, we have seen a significant increase in incidents proving how the environment has grown more hostile toward Christianity,” Evans added.
The 41-year-old Pastor Kim left behind a four-year-old son and his wife is expected to give birth in a few days to their next child. He was a pastor to a small group of believers.
CSW-USA’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas wrote, “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family, congregation and loved ones of Pastor Kim. We urge the Turkish government to fully investigate this murder, and hold those found to have been involved in it accountable. The government must also crack down on hate speech targeting Christians and other religious minorities, as it facilitates an atmosphere in which these communities are at increased risk. We call on the international community to press the Turkish government to end all forms of discrimination against religious minorities, and respect its constitutional obligations to protect and respect the rights of all citizens regardless of their religious affiliation or ethnic background.”
Other Christians in Turkey are concerned for their pastors, leaders and their very lives. They believe that Kim’s death is part of a plan to send a message of fear to the Christian community. Now Pastor Kim’s church members, wife, and children will have to celebrate Christmas without him.