Fort Worth, TX — Today the Second Court of Appeals will consider an appeal of a lower court’s decision regarding the medical interventions provided by the doctors and nurses at Cook Children’s Medical Center to a terminally ill baby, Tinslee Lewis. The court was asked to order the interventions to be provided indefinitely against the advice of the medical team and to declare a provision of Texas law that resolves disputes between the family and doctors to be unconstitutional. However, the lower court did neither.
Compelling testimony in the lower court revealed that the interventions prolonging Tinslee Lewis’ death are causing her continual pain and suffering and require her to be sedated and paralyzed.
Texas Alliance for Life and several other pro-life, disability rights, and health care organizations filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief defending the law, and representatives of Texas Alliance for Life will be present in the courtroom.
That brief is here.
“We believe the dispute resolution process in Texas law is both good public policy and is constitutional,” said Joe Pojman, Ph.D., Texas Alliance for Life’s executive director. “The Texas law is among the best in the nation. It balances patients’ rights to make end of life decisions with the rights of physicians to not indefinitely order painful, medically inappropriate interventions to terminally ill patients that only prolong their deaths with no proportional benefit.”
First passed unanimously by the Legislature and signed into law by then-Governor George W. Bush in 1999, the Texas Advance Directives Act has been amended three times, all of which were supported by Texas Alliance for Life: 2003, 2015, and 2017. “We believe the proper place to improve the dispute resolution process is in the Legislature with input from stakeholders and the public. We don’t think the court should short circuit the legislative process through judicial activism,” added Pojman.
While the plaintiffs’ attorneys claim that the Texas law fails to guarantee “due process” protection from the State, we point out that just the opposite is true.
First, the dispute resolution process in Texas law, Sec. 166.046 of the Health & Safety Code, compares very well with other states’ dispute resolutions laws. Twenty-two states provide safe harbor for physicians as does Texas, but Texas provides more due process to protect patients’ end of life decision-making autonomy.
A list of the 22 states is provided here.
Second, a doctor treating a patient according to his or her best medical and ethical judgement is not the State or a state actor. “A doctor following the dispute resolution process in Texas law is no more a state actor than a taxi driver following the laws of the road,” said Pojman.
The case is on expedited appeal, but it is not known when a decision will be handed down.