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DALLAS (AP) - The husband of a brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman on Tuesday sued the hospital keeping her on life support, saying doctors are doing so against her and her family's wishes.
The lawsuit filed in state district court asks a judge to order John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth to remove life support for Marlise Munoz, a North Texas woman who was 14 weeks pregnant when her husband found her unconscious on Nov. 26. Her family says the exact cause of her condition isn't known, though a blood clot is a possibility.
The hospital has said a state law prohibits life-saving treatment from being denied to pregnant patients.
Erick Munoz said a doctor told him his wife is considered brain-dead. He says that he and his wife, who are both paramedics, are very familiar with end-of-life issues and that she has made it clear to him that she would not want life support in this kind of situation. Marlise Munoz's parents agree.
Experts familiar with the Texas law say the hospital is incorrectly applying the statute because Munoz would be considered legally and medically dead.
"Marlise Munoz is dead, and she gave clear instructions to her husband and family - Marlise was not to remain on any type of artificial 'life sustaining treatment', ventilators or the like," the lawsuit said. "There is no reason JPS should be allowed to continue treatment on Marlise Munoz's dead body, and this Court should order JPS to immediately discontinue such."
Erick Munoz's lawyers, Heather King and Jessica Hall Janicek, also asked for an expedited answer from the court. No hearing was immediately scheduled.
Hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe directed questions about the lawsuit to the Tarrant County District Attorney's office, where spokeswoman Melody McDonald Lanier said attorneys were reviewing the case and declined to comment further.
Labbe previously has said hospital officials stand by their position: "This is not a difficult decision for us. We are following the law."
Erick Munoz's lawsuit argues that his directives - and the hospital's decision to not follow them - no longer matter because Marlise Munoz is dead under Texas law.
"As such, her body should instead immediately be released to her family," the lawsuit says.
The family has said they do not know the condition of the fetus. Marlise Munoz is believed to have been without oxygen for some time before her husband found her. Doctors have told Erick Munoz that they are monitoring the fetus, but Munoz has said he's uncertain about how healthy the fetus will be given his wife's condition.
"You know what kind of damage my wife sustained, and what kind of possible damage the baby inside her sustained," he said during a recent interview.
A 2010 article in the journal BMC Medicine found 30 cases of brain-dead pregnant women over about 30 years. Of 19 reported results, the journal found 12 in which a viable child was born and had post-birth data for two years on only six of them - all of whom developed normally, according to the journal.
In refusing to take Marlise Munoz off life support, the hospital has cited a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act that reads: "A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient."
Experts interviewed by The Associated Press, including two who helped draft the legislation, said a brain-dead patient's case wouldn't be covered by the law.
"This patient is neither terminally nor irreversibly ill," said Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the office of clinical ethics and palliative care for Baylor Health Care System. "Under Texas law, this patient is legally dead."
Tom Mayo, a Southern Methodist University law professor, said he did not believe the law applied in this case.
"It simply says that if you were to take the life support away, you'd be outside the subchapter," Mayo said. "It doesn't have an affirmative command in it that you must keep life support going."
If she is brain dead that's one thing But if the baby's alive that's another.To keep her alive.
that is exactly right. In this case no one has spoken for the life inside her. It would be pretty interesting to know if this same thing happened and if she had the proper documents in filed stating her wishes. What would the hospital do then? I mean her wishes explained verbally or documented are wishes for HER life not for the life inside her. Totally different.
And is the hospital picking up the tab or are they sending the bills for a treatment he doesn't want to him?
Who is going to pay the hospital (bill) plus machines that is keeping Marlise alive? I would just turn the machine off when no one was looking and oops don't know how or what happen. This is a violation of ones civil rights. Let Marlise Munoz rest in peace and give her family closure and peace.
While I agree with your sentiment, one cannot just walk in a room and disconnect a ventilator. I have worked in healthcare for many years and this unfortunate and productive young woman no longer has brain waves to tell her body how to work. Keeping her body alive to protect a fetus that quite likely experienced extreme hypoxia as the mother did. This woman stated what her wishes were. Honor them.
Emotion and law often run afoul of each other. This situation is a good example of that...
I had a brain dead husband once. Maybe I should have sued the hospital where he was born.
I was married to that same man! An absolute idiot! lol
Thanks, girls. That was good. Now after a good laugh, I can go to sleep.
I believe if it is Gods will that the mother has passed away than it would also be his will that the baby would pass away. The only thing keeping them alive is electricity. Very sad story. I feel so bad for the family and the husband. I agree if she was without oxygen for long enough to cause her to die, her baby was too. Believe me, I don't think lightly of this. 2 months ago my 22 year old son was on life support (ventilator). He was paralyzed from the shoulders down and had schizoaffective disorder. He asked to be removed from the vent and we supported his decision. Hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. I miss him terribly every day. I will pray for this family for peace.
and if only her brain was affected, not the rest of her body and therefore not the baby? If the baby died it wouldn't have a heartbeat and would've been naturally miscarried. Only her brain died...her heart didn't stop.
The brain controls the heart and lungs. Therefore, brain dead is dead. She is being kept alive by artificial means to be an incubator. The fetus along with the mother would have died if it wasn't for life support. Ever think that may have been God's will? Life support is not God's will.
Shows me that even if you have chosen the circumstances of how you wish to be handled in the event of something this tragic, which the hospital not only allows, but encourages people to do....the states of this nation will create a loophole in it. Even when it concerns only the family and no one else, politicians still feel the need to have the final say over it all.
Tough call, my prayers that the right decision will be guided to the hands that are involved. Lessons are here to be learned. Love is the key, life is here to learn love. Peace
tcsclean7, You put this in such a beautiful light. It is so wonderful to read such a kind and merciful comment :)
They need to look at the fetus. Is it alive and viable? If so, would taking the life support away endanger the fetus? Isn't the fetus under the same directive of not withdrawing life support as the mother under the law? If the fetus is alive it is entitled under the law to the same life support advantages as anyone else....
Why does a perfectly good print story require a low-grade video? These Huffpo and Newsy videos really aren't worth much.