The Supreme Court of the United States has declined the preliminary plea of a Texas hospital seeking to remove life support from toddler Tinslee Lewis against her mother’s will.
Cook Children’s Medical Center has been in court fighting the family of 23-month-old Tinslee since November 2019. The hospital wants to remove Tinslee’s life support without her mother’s consent under the Texas 10-Day Rule. After losing in a lower court, the hospital requested SCOTUS take up the case, but SCOTUS has declined. In refusing to hear the case, SCOTUS leaves in place the ruling from the lower court which temporarily prevents the hospital from withdrawing life support.
According to Texas Right to Life, the case will now return to the lower court for a final decision on a yet-to-be-decided date. The court will determine if Tinslee’s rights have been violated, if a hospital should have unilateral authority to withdraw life-sustaining medical treatment from a patient against the will of the parents, if patients have any due process rights in these cases, and if the 10-Day Rule is unconstitutional.
If the district court rules in favor of Tinslee and her mother, Cook Children’s will be permanently prevented from removing her ventilator and ceasing medical treatment without her mother’s agreement. According to Texas Right to Life, it would also mean that hospitals in Texas would no longer be able to enact the 10-Day Rule to withdraw medical care for patients and hasten their deaths.
Tinslee was born prematurely and has a rare heart defect, chronic lung disease, and chronic high blood pressure. Despite the hospital’s claim that she is suffering and there is no hope for her, her family says she is responsive and her life is valuable and worth fighting for. They believe she deserves a chance.
“T.L.’s life has value,” attorneys for Tinslee and her mother explained in a brief to the SCOTUS. “Withdrawal of life-saving treatment would kill T.L., who has normal brain function, interacts with Mother, and experiences joy from living. Mother acknowledges that certain medical procedures, such as IV insertions, can cause T.L. pain, but T.L. is not in agony.”
The 10-Day Rule requires that families who oppose a Texas hospital’s decision to end a patient’s life support find another facility willing to take the patient within 10 days. Ten days is a minuscule amount of time to find a new facility for a patient who is considered hopeless by the original doctors, especially when you factor in time to find a specialist and discuss these changes with insurance companies.
“This unconstitutional statute infringes on patients’ right to life and does not allow patients and families sufficient notice and the opportunity to be heard before physicians override the rights of their patients,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “Patients must be heard and justly represented when determining their own medical treatment, especially when the decision to end treatment could end their life.”
Texas Right to Life is calling on Texans to contact their state legislators here to help end the 10-Day Rule in order to protect patients like Tinslee.
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