Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Life for Tinslee Lewis

Life | The Supreme Court weighs in on case of a child on life support
by Leah Hickman
Posted 1/14/21, 06:32 pm

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected Cook Children’s Medical Center’s request to remove a child from life support against her mother’s wishes. The case returns to a lower court, where Tinslee Lewis’ supporters at Texas Right to Life expect the court to allow the child to keep living.

Almost 2-year-old Tinslee in Fort Worth, Texas, suffers from a rare heart defect, lung disease, and high blood pressure and has been in the hospital since her premature birth on Feb. 1, 2019. After she stopped breathing in July 2019, the hospital provided sedation, ventilation, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, in which a machine oxygenates the blood in place of the heart and lungs.

In November 2019, the children’s hospital tried to invoke Texas’ “10-day rule,” to take Tinslee off life support. Under this rule, hospitals that wish to remove a patient from life-sustaining treatment when the family disagrees must try to find another facility willing to take the patient. If no other provider is willing, the hospital can deny treatment after 10 days.

Tinslee’s mother, Trinity Lewis, argued that her daughter’s condition could still improve and began a lengthy court battle against the rule.

This July, a Texas appeals court released a carefully researched 148-page opinion in favor of Lewis. “When a terminally ill patient or her surrogate decision maker (especially a parent of a minor patient with her own individual liberty interest) actively opposes the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, the right to life is clearly implicated,” Justice Wade Birdwell wrote. Texas Right to Life said the “incredibly significant” decision “decimates” the 10-day rule.

A month after the Texas Supreme Court also ruled in Tinslee’s favor in October 2020, Cook Children’s Medical Center appealed to the Supreme Court. Since the justices have rejected the request, only one more trial, in the 48th District Court, stands between Tinslee and the end of the monthslong legal battle.

“We feel great about Tinslee’s case in the courts,” Texas Right to Life spokesperson Kim Schwartz said, pointing to the appeals court’s opinion. “Whenever it goes back to the trial court, the judge will use that opinion to make her decision. And so that will really inform the way that the judge is supposed to think about this case.”

Tinslee has recently made “positive steps forward in her health,” Schwartz said, though she would not provide specifics for the sake of the family’s privacy. She added other doctors have reviewed Tinslee’s case and said recovery is not hopeless. According to a motion filed in a district court in July, a doctor from the University of Michigan said performing a tracheostomy could improve Tinslee’s condition.

“A year ago, [Cook Children’s Medical Center] said that Tinslee was going to die in five months,” Schwartz said. “Not only is that blatantly disproven … but these other doctors have looked at her and said that ‘No, actually. We think that there is hope for Tinslee.’”

A ruling in Lewis’ favor means Tinslee would continue receiving treatment at the hospital. It would also invalidate the use of the 10-day rule in other Texas cases, allowing families to seek out additional medical care options for their sick loved ones.

Read more Vitals Sign up for the Vitals email
Leah Hickman

Leah is a reporter for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @leahmhickman.

Read more from this writer


You must be a WORLD Member and logged in to the website to comment.
    Posted: Thu, 01/14/2021 10:29 pm

    Such a good-news story! I pray that Tinslee, because of her courageous mother, Trinity Lewis, someday will be able to say, "I keep myself calm and quiet, like a little child on its mother's lap -- I keep myself like a little child." (Psalm 131:2, Complete Jewish Bible)

  • TXBearcat
    Posted: Mon, 01/18/2021 07:56 pm

    It is unfortunate that such an important story is given such little follow up and misleading at that.  Tinsley Lewis is made in the image of God, that is crystal clear and deserves the respect from all of us that that truth demands.  But what in practical terms does that mean? This article, short update I know, did little to enlighten.    

    First, the court of appeals that issued the decision referred in the article was the Texas 2nd Court of Appeals not the U.S. 2nd Circuit.  All the links in the short article are to the one organization that represents Tinsley’s mother, and is fund raising off the case,  and does not address the ten-day rule or why it was voted and then signed into law in the state of Texas.  The ten-day rule was developed in 1999 with the sponsorship of the same organization now opposed.  The rationale for the ten-day rule can be found at this link: The Ethics of the Texas Advance Directives Act |  

    That link explains a very pertinent piece of this story, without which stains the very fine staff of Cooks Children’s Hospital without proper context.  They have been heroic in keeping Tinsley alive.  It should also be reported that prior to even invoking the 10 day rule, Cook’s had tried for months to see if another pediatric care medical center in the country was willing to accept Tinsley as a patient.  Over twenty hospitals declined know that her condition was terminal.  Even the Michigan doctor, according to court filings, did not volunteer to accept responsibility for Tinsley care; only willing to do the procedure and leave.  Additionally, the article by Leah, mentions, according to the spokesperson for the representative organization, that Tinsley is “improving” without mentioning specifics.  Early on the representatives had the family invoke HIPPA to stop Cook’s from speaking to her conditions, which in early court filings was accurately described as terminal.  Then it becomes what exactly does someone do, or not do, to respect someone made in God’s image.  Here is another link that describes the medical procedures done just to keep Tinsley alive:  The court filings in Texas described the psychological strain it is for the nurses to keep continually respond to what was described as multiple times a day “dying” events in which they are required to inflict pain on this child. 

    Last point I will make, is that the Circuit court decision can rationally be described as not well reasoned.  That court determined that because Cooks followed Texas law, that made them a “state” actor and thus violated due process rights.  Understand…a private hospital became a “state” actor because they followed state law!  The long-term ramifications of that decision could be devastating for religious liberty cases, for conscious objections, etc., because someone has a state license issued for professional services.  The dissent in the 2nd Court of Appeals stated it best, “I fear this holding will extend the protection of § 1983 into areas that patently are not state action merely because of the weightiness or importance of the challenged decision. And I do not deny that the decisions involved in this case are important ones. Indeed, they are among the most important and personal rights we have. But such concerns should not, standing alone, attribute private conduct to the state such that a §1983 claim will lie against a private actor. Although counterintuitive in this case, a conclusion that CCMC is not a state actor enforces the ‘constitutional boundary between the governmental and the private,’ thereby protecting ‘a robust sphere of individual liberty.’”

    So many times, at end-of-life events families hang onto their loved ones because it hurts, most times at last we want our loved ones to be at rest, knowing that death is a natural part of God’s plan for our lives.

    Posted: Tue, 01/19/2021 12:46 am

    Oh, my! Thank you for the additional information. I did go to both of the links you provided, articles by Beverly Nuckols, M.D. Especially after reading "Doing To, Not For," I wonder if you may be right that Texas Right to Life (TRTL) "is fund raising off the case." Dr. Nuckols states: "The Act, TADA, was hammered out in 1999 by a group of stakeholders including patient and disability advocates, hospitals, doctors, ethicists, and lawyers, Texas’ pro-life organizations, including TRTL, and the organization for which I served on the board of directors for 15 years, Texas Alliance for Life."

    She continues, "I’ll admit that it’s my opinion — and only my opinion — that the lawyers hate that TADA provides a safe harbor from lawsuits if doctors follow the law (!). I slowly came to this conclusion over the years because, at virtually every legislative hearing and stakeholders’ meeting about any changes to the Act; the lawyers bemoan the fact that doctors don’t have to go to court over each of these cases and that they face no legal penalty or 'liability.' "

    My heart breaks for Trinity, Tinslee's mom, and I agree with Dr. Nuckols: "Poor Tinslee Lewis will most likely never leave the hospital alive. Disease and death don’t respect 'due process,' but, they are predictable and an inevitable part of life. Hopefully, we will see her mother and those who love her come to find peace with her death, celebrating the time they’ve had to be with her, especially these last two months. However, I fear that the lawsuits will continue for years, adding to their grief."

  • WORLD’s Mickey McLean
    Posted: Tue, 01/19/2021 11:01 am

    Thank you for pointing out the error in the name of the court. We have corrected it.

  • Gaye Clark
    Posted: Sat, 01/23/2021 06:07 pm

    Another complexity here is at what cost? No one wants to place a price on the value of a child, of course not. Yet the hard reality is this child needs highly skiled care every day, and  insurance companies place limits on what they will pay. In many instances, hospitals are expected to pick up the tab indefinitely.