The Texas Second Court of Appeals recently granted an emergency motion to “stay a ruling that had permitted a Fort worth hospital to disconnect an ailing infant from a ventilator against her relatives’ wishes,” according to the Star-Telegram.
Baby Tinslee Lewis was born prematurely last February and has been on life support ever since at Cook Children’s Medical Center. Lewis was born with a rare but generally non-life threatening defect called an Ebstein anomaly or, more commonly, a hole in the heart. She also suffers from severe pulmonary hypertension — the arteries carrying blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs are extremely constricted — and a chronic lung disease.
If taken off life support, she is expected to die quickly. Cook Children’s officials claim there is nothing they can do for her. Her family wants her kept on life support indefinitely. They are probably praying for a miracle, but it is unlikely to happen.
Following the appeals court ruling, hospital officials said, “To keep her alive, doctors and nurses must keep her on a constant stream of painkillers, sedatives, and paralytics.” In other words, the baby is suffering. She may not be able to express it because the sedatives and paralytics keep her quiet, but she is in great pain.
The case, of course, has been hotly politicized, bringing in right to lifers and Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, who both sent a letter to the Second Court of Appeals asking the court to grant the emergency stay of an earlier opinion allowing the hospital to take Tinslee off life support.
I’m a dad. One of my boys had severe kidney failure at age 7. It happened overnight, and the hospital in Lima, Peru, told my wife and me to call a priest because Marco would be dead in hours. I didn’t agree with that and told the hospital to bring in the best damned pediatric kidney specialist in the country and do it pronto. They did. Seventeen days in the intensive care unit later, he was fully stabilized, and a week later, he was allowed to come home. Home was New York City, and he needed another year of care with weekly visits to a kidney specialist before he was really home free.
So I understand the Lewises’ desire to keep baby Tinslee alive. At almost all costs, regardless of the effort.
But what bothers me in this case is the suffering. Adults who suffer endlessly can make a choice to keep going or give up. This baby has no choice. She is being allowed to suffer relentlessly and has been since she was born, if the officials at Cook’s are telling the truth, and there is no reason to believe they are not.
An entire lifetime of endless pain should not be a political football played by right to lifers and politicians. A total of 19 other hospitals contacted by Cook Children’s agree that she is in pain and will not take her on — probably for fiscal reasons as well as the impossibility of successfully treating her.
If my son had been in pain for the year and a half he was ill, I would have given him up rather than see him suffer one more day. Fortunately, he wasn’t. But baby Tinslee Lewis apparently is. It might be heartbreaking, but it might be time to let her go, to release her from her suffering.