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Fort Worth

Cook Children’s asks judge who extended baby’s life support to take himself off case

 

Cook Children’s Medical Center has filed a motion asking a judge to recuse himself from the case of a 9-month-old girl whose family is suing the hospital after doctors planned to take the baby off life support.

On Tuesday, 323rd District Judge Alex Kim renewed a temporary restraining order against Cook Children’s that prohibited the hospital from ending Tinslee Lewis’ treatment.

The restraining order is meant to give Tinslee’s family until at least Dec. 10 to find a new hospital to accept her as a patient. Tinslee has several critical health problems and needs a ventilator to breathe. Her family said she needs more time to get better, but physicians at the hospital said she is suffering and her condition is fatal.

Cook Children’s filed a motion to have Kim recused from Tinslee’s case, saying Kim is biased and he and the family’s lawyer violated legal procedure.

Cook Children’s Medical Center and Kim did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the motion, Cook Children’s said Texas Right to Life collaborated with State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, who spoke against Cook Children’s decision at a press conference on Nov. 10, to find a judge who would sign the order.

In a statement, Texas Right to Life said the family’s lawyer, Joe Nixon, contacted Kim — the group did not.

Kim also improperly had the case assigned to him, Cook Children’s said in the motion. The motion said Kim asked the Tarrant County district clerk to assign the case to his court instead of the case being randomly assigned.

Additionally, Kim is a juvenile judge who oversees juvenile delinquency and child welfare cases. The hospital said cases assigned to Kim must be listed as specific juvenile issues in the statute. Tinslee’s case, the motion said, does not qualify.

Cook Children’s said Kim is also personally biased in the case based on his affiliation with groups who have campaigned against the law under which the hospital tried to end Tinslee’s treatment, according to the motion.

When hospital officials told Tinslee’s family they were going to end the baby’s treatment, the hospital invoked the 10-Day Rule, which is part of the Texas Advance Directives Act.

Under this section of the law, if a doctor deems a patient’s treatment is futile, an ethics committee of other hospital employees have the ability to review the case and either agree or disagree with the physician.

Winifred King, assistant vice president of public relations for Cook Children’s Health Care System, said in a previous statement, “While we believe every child’s life is sacred, we also believe that no child should be sentenced to a life of pain. Removing this beautiful child from mechanical ventilation is a gut-wrenching decision for Cook Children’s physicians and staff; however, we feel it is in her best interest to free her from artificial, medical intervention and suffering.”

The day after Kim first issued the restraining order against Cook Children’s, he spoke at a True Texas Project presentation in North Richland Hills. The True Texas Project has publicly fought against the Texas Advance Directives Act and campaigned against the hospital in Tinslee’s case, according to the motion.

Kim issued the restraining order on Nov. 10, which originally was set to expire on Nov. 22. On Tuesday, he extended the order until Dec. 10.

According to Texas law, a judge must recuse himself if the judge’s impartiality can reasonably be questioned.

Tye Brown, Tinslee’s cousin, said the family felt Kim’s restraining order and extension were fair.

“He is actually hearing us out,” she said.

She also said the family is still searching for a hospital to take Tinslee.

“We’re hopeful and praying every day that we do find a place for her,” she said. “We want to give her the care and treatment she deserves.”

Cook Children’s statement on Nov. 10 included a list of 19 hospitals its staff had reached out to see if any would be willing to accept Tinslee as a patient. Each said Cook Children’s assessment was correct and “they feel there is nothing more they can provide to help improve this precious child’s life.”

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