A family in Texas has been granted an injunction to give nine-month old Tinslee Lewis a chance at life after the Cook Children’s Health Care System made the decision to remove the child’s life-support.
Lewis was born prematurely with a rare heart defect called Ebstien’s anomaly, which makes her heart so large that it puts pressure on her right lung. As a result, the little girl also suffers from a chronic lung disease and severe pulmonary hypertension. She’s already had several surgeries and has been in the intensive care unit (ICU) since birth. It’s unknown if little Tinslee will be able to pull through this, but her mother, Trinity Lewis, wants to give her a fighting chance. Cook Children’s doesn’t agree.
The hospital told the young mother on October 31st, that either the family needs to transfer Tinslee to another medical facility or the doctors will remove her life sustaining treatment. Trinity and her family were shocked.
“I thought they was going to pull the plug on my baby,” Trinity told local reporters. “I didn’t think that she was going to still be here today.”
The family has been able to get a court order that will stop the hospital from removing her treatment until November 22. During that time, the Lewis family will have the opportunity to try and find another medical facility that’s will to take her. But that might be quite a challenge.
According to a statement released by Cook Children’s, several hospitals have been approached about accepting Tinslee as a patient. Some of the medical facilities are the best in the country, and include Boston Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Texas Children’s, Johns Hopkins, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and a number of other locations. None have agreed to take her. As Cook Children’s press release states, “All (the hospitals) have said our assessment is correct and they feel there is nothing more they can provide to help improve this precious child’s life.”
That may or may not be true, but the problem is Texas law. While the state is known for its strong pro-life stance, there is a law that makes it much easier for doctors to make the decision to remove treatment if they no longer consider it a viable option. It’s called the “10-day rule.”
The law stipulates that if “doctors believe life-sustaining treatment should be stopped but the family does not, the disagreement can be taken to the hospital’s ethics committee. If the committee agrees with the doctor, the ‘10-day rule’ can be employed. If the hospital or family can’t find a willing provider in that time, and unless a court grants extension, treatment can be withdrawn.”
That means that if the hospital believes any patient is beyond their ability to treat and the family can’t find an alternative medical center, then they can unilaterally remove life-sustaining treatment regardless of the family’s wishes.
As the Houston Press puts it, “In Texas it doesn’t matter what instructions you’ve previously given or what your relatives say: If you’re in critical condition, you’re dependent on machines to survive and hospital officials decide it’s time to pull the plug, you will die. And it’s completely legal.”
This is what happened to David Christopher Dunn. A man who was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, gastric obstruction, pancreatic cancer, respiratory failure and gastrointestinal bleeding. He was on a ventilator when physicians decided that there were no other treatment options available except death. His mother and family fought to continue his treatment since he was still able to respond to yes or no questions with a nod and put his hands together has if he was praying. He died of natural causes before he could be moved to another facility.
Records show that about 70% of the time, committees in Texas agreed with the physicians’ assessment, and in 30% of cases sided with the families. In a situation where the committee agreed with the medical team, 44% of patients die while waiting for a transfer, 17% were moved to other facilities and eight patients did end up improving.
Medical treatments are complex, and sometimes there is no hope for a cure. But if the family is still willing to support their family member, shouldn’t they have the right to allow treatment to continue? As Ecclesiastes 3:2 says, “There is a time to be born and a time to die” (ESV). But those times are God’s domain to determine, not ours. When it comes to the life of the patient, in most cases the family should win.
Please pray that little Tinslee Lewis will be able to find another hospital and that life-sustaining treatment will continue.