Fort Worth

Family fights to keep 9-year-old girl on life support at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth

Lawyer says nine-year-old has ’14 days to live’ on life support at Fort Worth hospital

A lawyer for the mother of a nine-year-old Payton Summons tells the press that Summons has "14 days to live" at the Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth. The Center wants to remove Summons life support after doctors declared her brain dead.
Up Next
A lawyer for the mother of a nine-year-old Payton Summons tells the press that Summons has "14 days to live" at the Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth. The Center wants to remove Summons life support after doctors declared her brain dead.

A family received a court order on Monday that prohibits a hospital from removing their 9-year-old girl from life support after she was declared brain dead by doctors.

Doctors were set to remove Payton Summons from life support at Cook Children’s Medical Center on Monday against the wishes of her parents, according to a statement from the attorney representing the girl’s mother, Justin Moore.

“We learned that Payton has 14 more days to live,” Moore told reporters after the decision. “At least under the care of Cook Chidren’s Medical Center.”

Moore said Payton’s mother, Tiffany Hofstetter, was very happy with the news.

“She shouted out for joy,” said Moore, who had called Payton’s mother with the news.

The DeSoto attorney said hospital officials were not to touch the 9-year-old as attorneys argued the case Monday morning, but after the ruling, the hospital staff could continue treatment.

“As is their right under the Texas Advance Directive Act, they should be provided the time and opportunity to find another facility that will allow for continued care of Payton while she slowly recovers,” Moore’s statement said. “They simply want to give their child a fighting chance. Far too often, we have seen medical facilities choose profits over care for patients.”

State District Judge Melody Wilkinson agreed with the attorney for the family, and granted a 14-day restraining order that would keep the hospital from taking the girl off the ventilator that is breathing for her. But Wilkinson also scheduled a hearing for 9:30 a.m. Friday to revisit the order and take into consideration any developments.

“It could be more days or less,” Moore said when asked what options the judge had.

Moore told Wilkinson the family needed time to search for an alternative medical center where Payton could be placed.

Payton has cancer and has developed a tumor that has cut off her circulation, according to Laura Copeland, an attorney representing Cook Children’s Medical Center. Doctors have done initial testing that show no brain activity, but have not finalized that testing, Copeland told Wilkinson

“She has a tumor that is crushing her heart and lungs,” Copeland said.

Moore told the court a possible facility for Payton had been located in Texas, but the family has not had the time or the opportunity to conduct a proper search.

“It’s not even been a complete week but they want to pull the plug already,” Moore said.

Copeland said the hospital had called two Dallas hospitals and given the family four days to make a search after telling the family their child was brain dead on Thursday.

“There is no facility, there is no phone call that could be made, there is no place that will take her,” Copeland told the court. “She is dead. It is very traumatic for the staff to have to do things for a patient they know is dead.”

Moore argued that the family has been given hope and it would be wrong for the court to take that hope away.

A statement from Cook Children’s Medical Center said the following: “There’s nothing more heartbreaking for a family to face than the possibility of losing a child. Our clinicians, many of whom are parents too, work tirelessly to save children every day.

“Payton arrived at Cook Children’s on Tuesday, unconscious and suffering from cardiac arrest. She underwent an hour of CPR at home and in the ambulance on the way to Cook Children’s. After arriving in our Emergency Department, our physicians and nurses were able to revive her heartbeat, but they were unsuccessful in resuscitating her breathing.”

“Payton’s breathing is currently being maintained through artificial means with the use of a ventilator, but she suffered a devastating injury to her brain due to being without oxygen for over an hour.

“In addition to dealing with the sudden blow of her cardiac arrest and devastating brain injury, Payton’s family is also coping with the news that the arrest was caused by the growth of a very large tumor in her chest that is shutting off her circulatory system.”

In a second statement distributed Monday afternoon, Cook Children’s officials said the hospital would comply with Wilkinson’s order and allow the family time to determine whether Payton could be transported to another facility. The hospital will not do a second brain death examination to confirm the first test that showed no brain activity, the statement said.

“We respect the effort of Payton’s family to do what they believe is best for their child,” the statement said. “We experience this kind of parental passion every day and always work alongside the parents.”

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3; Domingo Ramirez: 817-390-7763, @mingoramirezjr.
Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram