Clarification: A quote from Joe Pojman has been corrected.
Three appellate judges are now deliberating whether Cook Children's Medical Center can remove 1-year-old Tinslee Lewis from life-sustaining treatment.
In doing so, the Second Court of Appeals could rule on the constitutionality of part of the Texas Advance Directive Act, which gives a family 10 days to find another medical facility after a hospital's board has decided to remove care.
Tinslee has been hospitalized since birth with grave lung and heart problems. She turned 1 on Saturday.
The Lewis family's attorney, Joe Nixon, says the 10-day statute is unconstitutional and argued as much Tuesday in front of justices Lee Gabriel, J. Wade Birdwell and Mike Wallach.
“There is no right of the hospital to terminate care,” he said in court.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office released a statement after the hearing saying a state attorney argued to "halt a Texas law that allows physicians ... to cease life-sustaining treatment against a patient or caregiver's wishes."
“Life is the first constitutionally protected interest, and this case is a matter of life and death for a defenseless child," Paxton said in a written statement. "This baby girl, like all Texans, must be afforded the rights she deserves.”
Hospital staff believes keeping Tinslee alive is causing her pain. Attorneys for the hospital wrote in a brief to the appellate court last month that Tinslee experiences a "dying event" nearly every day, forcing medical personnel to manually inflate her lungs.
In October, Cook Children's invoked the so-called 10-day rule. The statute says if doctors and patients reach an impasse, and the hospital’s ethics board approves, patients or their families must find another facility or the hospital can stop providing life-sustaining treatment on Day 11.
Cook Children's say it has contacted more than 20 medical facilities about taking over Tinslee's care, but "every hospital refused," according to court documents.
Nixon said this case and the decision made regarding the “10-day rule” could have far-reaching implications for all Texans.
In their decision, the judges will determine if the “10-day rule” is constitutional for all Texans, both Nixon and attorneys for the hospital said.
Cook Children’s, which is not allowed to talk about Tinslee’s case, released a statement, saying in part: “While every patient’s journey looks different, our commitment to them never fades as we keep pressing forward to put our patients’ needs above our own and working hard to give each child the very best care they deserve. This level of commitment becomes even more important when we are fighting for children who don’t have a voice.”
Texas Alliance For Life, a pro-life group, spoke Tuesday in favor of the statute, breaking from Texas Right To Life’s position against it.
“We believe the dispute resolution process in Texas law is both good public policy and is constitutional,” said Joe Pojman from Texas Alliance For Life.
It’s unclear when the justices will issue their opinion.