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Hospital appeals judge's order to extend life support for 9-year-old who doctors say is brain dead

A Texas family has continued its fight to keep 9-year-old Payton Summon s on life support after a brain scan showed no brain activity. (Image source: Video screenshot)

Lawyers for a Texas hospital have filed an appeal requesting that the court vacate an extension to keep a 9-year-old girl, who hospital officials say is brain dead, on life support.

On Tuesday, attorneys for Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth filed a writ of mandamus in the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth after an extension was granted on Monday for the family of Payton Summons.

Hospital lawyers accused the court of abusing its discretion.

"In abusing its discretion, the trial court apparently fails to appreciate the grim reality that, by judicial fiat, it is compelling that health care providers at Cook to maintain a deceased person, whose body is deteriorating (and skin degrading), on mechanical ventilation — as has been the case for the last three weeks," lawyers wrote in the documents.

State District Judge Melody Wilkinson granted the family an additional week to find another facility to care for their daughter who has been on life support since Sept. 25 at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth.

What's the story?

Payton was placed on a ventilator after she suffered cardiac arrest. Doctors found a large cancerous tumor behind her heart, which caused her heart to stop.

She was declared brain dead after a scan showed no brain activity.

Her family filed a temporary restraining order to prevent the hospital from removing her from life support, which was initially granted Oct. 1. It had been extended once but Wilkinson later denied a similar request on Oct. 10.

The TRO was set to expire Monday at 1:20 p.m. The judge said she would consider any new petitions filed before 1:15 p.m. on Monday.

At 11:51 a.m. on Monday, the family's lawyers filed another request for an extension. At 7:45 p.m., several hours after the TRO had expired, Wilkinson granted the family an additional week to search for a facility that will take over Payton's care.

On Monday, lawyer Gregory Blaies, who is representing Cook Children’s, said the judge's extension was in violation of the law since the order had already expired by the time the extension was entered, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“At 1:21 p.m., there was no longer a TRO for the trial court to extend,” the appeal document reads.

Wilkinson said on Monday that she would let the appeals court decided if the order had expired. Wilkinson's current extension is set to expire on Oct. 22.

What did the hospital say?

In a written statement to TheBlaze, the hospital said that Payton is considered dead under Texas law.

"The judge’s decision has put all of us in an incredibly difficult position. As a hospital made up of women and men who made it their careers to save lives, we are truly devastated for this family," the statement said.

"But when Payton Summons suffered brain death on September 25, she was determined to be dead under clear Texas law and the laws of every other state. There is no treatment that can be provided for her at Cook Children’s or any other facility that will change that.

"To maintain a dead person on mechanical ventilation and insist – in fact order – that health care providers continue treating a deceased, deteriorating body is medically, ethically, and morally wrong. We will continue to support this family during this difficult time."

What else?

At the hearing earlier this week, attorney Paul Stafford told the court that Payton's parents needed more time to contact additional facilities that had come to their attention.

The judge agreed. She granted the parents additional time to try to find another facility and maybe say goodbye to their daughter, according to the Star-Telegram.

“The sad reality is there are no facilities that are willing to accept [Payton Summons],” the hospital’s attorneys argue. “She is deceased. This was already addressed at the temporary injunction hearing. Plaintiffs are under the mistaken belief, and hope, that all they need is a little more time to find a place that will take her. None will.”

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