Fort Worth

Girl on life support gets attorney; family and Fort Worth hospital in talks

A Tarrant County family court has appointed an attorney for a 9-year-old girl on life support who hospital officials have said is likely no longer alive.

On Monday a judge signed a temporary restraining order preventing Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth from removing Payton Summons from life support. The order was issued in order to give the family more time to find a facility that might better suit the wishes of the parents.

State District Judge Melody Wilkinson told attorneys Friday that she wanted David Cook, the attorney representing Payton, to be involved in any settlement negotiations involving the parents and Cook Children’s Medical Center.

“I wanted an attorney ad litem to look out for the best interest of the child,” Wilkinson said. “I understand that 20 different facilities have been explored.”

The attorneys representing Payton’s mother and Cook Children’s went into a private conference room shortly after the hearing was called to order to determine if they could reach an agreement. No agreement on Payton’s situation was reached, but attorneys did agree to reschedule the hearing for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The talks have reached an impasse, said Justin Moore, the attorney representing Payton’s mother.

Tiffany Hoffstetter, Payton’s mother, said Friday morning that her daughter remains on a ventilator and is receiving comfort care from hospital staff.

“She’s not getting any medicine,” Hofstetter said.

Hofstetter has not received counseling or spiritual guidance from hospital staff recently. She said she had before, but that she has not found the staff to be helpful.

The family received a court order Monday that prohibited the hospital from removing the girl from life support after she was declared brain dead by doctors.

Doctors were set to remove Payton from life support Monday against the wishes of her parents, according to a statement from Moore.

The order gave Payton 14 more days to live, Moore said at the time.

“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.”

Payton has cancer and has developed a tumor that has cut off her circulation, the hospital has said.

The hospital has been prohibited by the family from speaking to the public about Payton’s medical condition. However, the hospital did send a statement that said it realizes that the families who bring their children to Cook Chiildren’s for treatment put their trust in them.

“We use every resource we have to support families,” the statement said. “Our nurses and physicians are on the front line of exceptional care, however, the care we provide includes many other services including pastoral care, patient advocacy, social work, child life and many others whose job is to provide spiritual and emotional support to our families.”

Jeff Hood, who said earlier this week he would help organize protests if the hospital continued on its current path of ending life-sustaining measures for Payton, softened his stance.

“The bullies have backed down, therefore we will cease all talk of protests,” Hood said.

Moore said Friday that he was not at the press conference where Hood made those comments about protesting “and that neither he nor the family had anything to do with the calls to protest.

“In regards to the protests that were mentioned earlier in the week, neither the family nor the attorneys for Tiffany Hofstetter are interested in them or wanting them to occur,” Moore said. “It’s important that doctors and the other staff at Cook Children’s Medical Center be able to perform their duties without any undue duress or threat of harm. These folks take care of a multitude of sick children and we would hate for them to not be able to access care due to protest.”

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3
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