Statement on Tinslee Lewis in Cook Children's Hospital and the Texas Advance Directives Act
by Joe Pojman on November 19, 2019 at 8:27 AM
A great deal of controversy has arisen regarding the appropriateness of specific medical interventions of an infant named Tinslee Lewis, who is at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth. While we do not have first-hand details of Baby Tinslee Lewis' medical condition, our hearts and prayers go out to her, her family, and all those tending to her needs. What we know from second-hand information is that a beautiful baby girl and her family are facing heartbreaking medical diagnoses and decisions on the best future course of care and action.
This case and others have been used to call into question the appropriateness of the Texas Advance Directives Act, a largely misunderstood section of the law that can affect medical decisions at the end of life. We at Texas Alliance for Life are committed to protecting the fundamental right to life of all innocent human beings and to promoting respect for their value and dignity from conception to natural death. We therefore oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide.
We strongly support the Texas Advance Directives Act and its dispute resolution process, a vital part of the Act. The process, which is both good public policy and constitutional, was signed into law by pro-life Governor George W. Bush in 1999 with the unanimous support of the Texas Legislature and pro-life groups, including Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life. The goal of this law is not euthanasia, as the picture is sometimes painted by those who don't fully understand its implications.
The dispute resolution process provides a vehicle for doctors and families to discuss medically appropriate interventions for a loved one facing an end of life medical prognoses. This law balances the family's autonomy regarding end-of-life medical decisions with a doctor's conscience rights to not order medically inappropriate interventions that would cause unnecessary suffering without the hope of improving their patient's condition. We are talking about prolonging a patient's dying process with disproportionate means that may cause considerable pain and suffering and are difficult for the patient to endure without any real benefit. The law provides that, in rare cases when the family and the doctor disagree about certain interventions, the doctor's decision is reviewed by an ethics committee.
In the last 20 years, the Texas Legislature has improved the Texas Advance Directives Act, with the support of Texas Alliance for Life and other groups. In 2015, the Legislature passed a measure requiring physicians to provide food and water if requested by the family or deemed medically appropriate by the physician. In 2017 an additional measure was added requiring doctors to obtain the consent of the patient or family before issuing a DNR order. In 2019, the Texas Senate passed a measure preventing conflicts of interest and discrimination against disability when an ethics committee makes a judgment about the medical appropriateness of an intervention.
Three state courts have rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the dispute resolution process -- a Harris County District Court, the First Court of Appeals, and the Texas Supreme Court -- in a case called Kelly v. Houston Methodist Hospital.
We are grateful for pro-life legislators and leaders in the state of Texas who fight to protect the value of human life and who create laws that address these complicated issues at the end of life and balance the rights and wishes of all involved.