Judge Rules Hospital Can Remove Child From Life Support Against Parents' Wishes
Anguished parents holding out hope their terminally ill 11-month-old daughter will recover. Well-meaning doctors trying to mitigate suffering faced with impossible choices. A judge, caught in the middle, trying to interpret the law to satisfy all parties.
Eleven-month-old Tinslee Lewis has been fighting for her life since she was born. She was born prematurely with a heart defect and has never left the hospital. She went into cardiac arrest in July, and since then, has been on a heart-lung machine. She has had half a dozen surgeries, but doctors say there's no hope she will wake up.
Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, where Tinslee is on life support, said in a statement that the decision allows it "to make the most compassionate and medically appropriate decisions for Tinslee as she struggles in pain to survive each day."
"Our medical judgment is that Tinslee should be allowed to pass naturally and peacefully rather than artificially kept alive by painful treatments," the statement said. "Even with the most extraordinary measures the medical team is taking, Tinslee continues to suffer."
Yesterday, a district judge agreed. He ruled the hospital had the right to remove Tinslee from life support.
Tinslee's mother disagrees.
The family of the girl, Tinslee Lewis, plans to appeal the ruling, which Tinslee's mother, Trinity Lewis, said had left her "heartbroken."
"The judge basically said Tinslee's life is NOT worth living. I feel frustrated because anyone in that courtroom would want more time just like I do if Tinslee were their baby," Lewis said in a statement released by Texas Right to Life, a nonprofit anti-abortion advocacy group, which represents the family.
Texas law allows the doctors, with the approval of the facility's ethics committee, to end life-saving treatments against the wishes of the family, or even the patient. The family is given 10 days to find another hospital to take their loved one. In Tinslee's case, advocates have contacted nearly two dozen hospitals with no success.
Tinslee's doctors say she is in pain.
At a hearing in December, Dr. Jay Duncan, one of Tinslee's physicians, said that she had undergone at least a half-dozen operations and that her doctors had run out of options.
He also said she is in pain.
"Changing a diaper causes pain. Suctioning her breathing tube causes pain. Being on the ventilator causes pain," Duncan said, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
Duncan said there had been "many, many" conversations with Tinslee's family. "We care a lot about Tinslee," he said. "We care a lot about her family."
Texas Right to Life is advocating for the family -- as they should. No matter how distraught the family, they should maintain the right to determine care for their child. Mrs. Lewis being emotionally compromised is unavoidable. Of course she's making decisions for Tinslee based on love for her child and not the cold, hard facts of the case. What else should anyone expect?
But someone has to advocate for Tinslee, the person. Here, the doctors see Tinslee's pain, know she will never get better, and, as compassionate caregivers, want to end her suffering.
There are no bad guys in this story, only emotionally torn adults wrestling with conscience and the law.