The mother of 2-year-old Tinslee Lewis, whose family has been fighting to keep her alive at a Fort Worth hospital, says her daughter is improving, noting Tinslee is taking occupational therapy and she has been weaned off pain medication, according to court documents filed Thursday.
Tinslee Lewis’ mother, Trinity Lewis, said Cook Children’s Medical Center has “grossly mischaracterized” Tinslee’s condition.
Tinslee has been at Cook Children’s for most of her life. Born with a rare heart condition, Tinslee has been kept alive with medical care and “extreme efforts,” according to hospital officials.
The paperwork filed Thursday by attorneys for the Lewis family was in response to hospital officials asking the 48th District Court of Fort Worth to quickly schedule a trial date to decide whether life support care should be removed from Tinslee.
The hospital has asked for a July 26 trial date. Attorneys for Tinslee and her mother filed paperwork asking for a January 2022 date.
The hospital says that Tinslee cannot feel anything except pain. In multiple court proceedings, doctors testified that Tinslee has no chance of recovery and each day is tortuous for her.
“This child should not be forced to endure this fate for months on end while this matter continues its creep through the legal system,” the hospital’s appeal filed April 16 said.
But in court documents filed Thursday, the Lewis family says the proposed July 26 trial date would prevent them from gathering evidence and consulting experts to make their case.
In addition, Tinslee’s doctors have consistently told Trinity that she is doing better than they expected and she has improved, according to the family’s motion.
“She is not stiff. She is no longer nasally intubated,“ according to the court documents. “She is pointing and communicating.”
“Tinslee’s life is a miracle and she proves that every day!” said Kim Schwartz, a spokeswoman with Texas Right to Life, in a Friday news release. “Look at this evidence and see for yourself how she is improving.”
Schwartz was referring to a recent video and photos of Tinslee showing the toddler awake.
The hospital said in its appeal that Texas had spent $24 million in Medicaid funds to help keep Tinslee alive.
“Although this case has never been about money — and Cook Children’s has never considered finances when making an end-of-life decision,” the appeal says, “the State of Texas (through its manager of a Medicaid care program) is now threatening to interject the issue into this dispute.”
According to Lewis’ motion, her legal team tried to substantiate the hospital’s statements about the position of the state’s Medicaid manager but was unable to do so. An attorney for the state agency told the family’s representative that the state Medicaid program has no plan to intervene in the case, according to the motion.
The legal fight surrounding Tinslee began in October 2019 when Cook Children’s Ethics Committee voted unanimously to end Tinslee’s treatment. Under the Texas Advance Directives Act, the hospital is legally within its right to end treatment for a patient if the care is deemed futile.
However, Lewis fought back. She and her attorney filed an injunction against the hospital in November 2019.
Since then, the case went up through the courts, with each side appealing if the ruling was not in their favor. In January 2020, a judge ruled that Tinslee could be taken off life support after an emotional hearing in the 48th District Court in Fort Worth. In July 2020, the Second Appellate District of Texas in Fort Worth reversed that decision.
In October 2020, the Texas Supreme Court denied the hospital’s petition to take Tinslee off life support and in January, the federal Supreme Court rejected the hospital’s plea, as well.
The case now returns to the lower court for a final ruling. If the 48th District Court rules in favor of Tinslee’s mother, the hospital cannot end her treatment.
This report contains information from Fort Worth Star-Telegram archives.