‘Tinslee is home.’ Toddler discharged from Fort Worth hospital after lengthy legal battle

Trinity Lewis says the condition of her daughter, 2-year-old Tinslee Lewis, is improving. Trinity Lewis is in an ongoing legal battle with Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, over her daughter’s care. She took this photo of Tinslee on April 12, 2021, according to court documents. (Trinity Lewis/Provided)
·5 min read

A Fort Worth 3-year-old who has spent most of her life at Cook Children’s Medical Center is home with her mother after a lengthy court battle, according to the Facebook page dedicated to the girl.

Tinslee Lewis has received intensive care at the Fort Worth hospital for nearly her entire life. She was born premature and with a rare heart condition, and medical staff kept her alive through open heart surgery and a ventilator.

When Tinslee was about 10 months old, a hospital ethics committee authorized removal of her life-sustaining treatment. Her mother, Trinity Lewis, had been in a legal battle with the hospital ever since as she fought for the right to decide whether her daughter lives or dies.

“I’m sorry but i can’t hold it in any longer,” Trinity Lewis posted on Facebook on Thursday. “Today my baby came home and I’m filled with joy and emotions right now. This journey have been nothing but hard and stressful and i am truly blessed i was able to do everything i can to bring her home.”

In the post, Lewis said Tinslee was doing well. She thanked her family, lawyers, various advocacy groups that have taken up her cause and Cook Children’s Medical Center for “doing everything y’all can to help keep my baby here i appreciate everything y’all have done truly!!!!”

Lewis, who has another daughter, said in her Facebook post that she was officially a “TWO CARSEAT MOM.”

Lewis’ post was shared to the Facebook page, “Tinslee Strong” with the caption, “Tinslee is home !!”

Tinslee Lewis has been the unknowing focus of a debate over who has the legal right to decide whether to continue a patient’s care. The Texas Advance Directives Act protects hospitals from legal repercussions, such as lawsuits, for making a decision about patient care that contradicts a family’s wishes.

A trial was initially set earlier this year for Tinslee’s case, on Jan. 25, but the trial was postponed. In court documents, both sides said they were looking into alternative solutions outside of the court of law.

In response to Tinslee’s return home, the Cook Children’s Health Care System issued this statement:

“The medical teams at Cook Children’s have dedicated their lives to healing children, and go to tireless lengths to do what they believe in their hearts and minds to be the very best decision for each and every patient.”

Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, has supported Tinslee’s case. In a statement Tuesday, the group said it is grateful for everyone who banded together to help Tinslee get home.

“Cook Children’s worked with the family to improve Tinslee’s health to the point that she no longer needs a hospital setting for care,” the group said in a statement. “She is on home health care now and is doing great (she even gives her family kisses)!”

Texas Right to Life said Tinslee’s case is a “success story that shows in the absence of an anti-Life countdown, families and hospitals can work together for the benefit of the patient.”

Texas Right to Life has been an active opponent to the “10-Day Rule” included in the Texas Advance Directives Act. If doctors determine care is futile or medically inappropriate, a provision in the act allows an ethics committee to choose to end treatment 10 days after a family is notified, unless the family can find another hospital to take the patient. Supporters of the law say it allows physicians to make a difficult, but responsible, decision that families may not be able to accept. Those opposed say hospitals do not have the moral authority to decide who lives and dies.

History of Tinslee Lewis case

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. The hospital argued Tinslee’s treatment would not make her better and only prolonged her suffering.

Trinity Lewis, however, fought against the decision. She said her daughter was not suffering and she had hope she could improve. She and her attorneys filed for a restraining order against the hospital in November 2019. A judge granted the injunction, and the case has moved through multiple proceedings and appeals since then.

Tinslee’s case moved 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 declined to review the hospital’s petition to take Tinslee off life support and in January 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the hospital’s plea, as well.

The case returned to the lower court for a final ruling. If the 48th District Court had ruled in favor of the hospital, medical staff could have ended Tinslee’s treatment. If the court sided with Tinslee’s mother, not only could the hospital not end her treatment, but the future of the Texas Advance Directives Act would also have been called into question.

The hospital asked the 48th District Court of Fort Worth to expedite the court process and schedule a trial for July 2021. But Lewis and her attorneys asked the courts for a January 2022 trial, saying they needed more time and the expedited process was not necessary because Tinslee’s condition was improving.

In court documents filed in May 2021, Lewis said her daughter was taking occupational therapy and she had been weaned off pain medication.

In September 2021, the case was scheduled for a trial date of Jan. 25, but the trial was delayed. In a status report on March 1, the parties said they were “working cooperatively to resolve the situation.”