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Pregnant, brain-dead woman's husband sues hospital

Husband Reportedly Suing Hospital To Take Pregnant Wife Off Life Support

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."

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scottsdaiejen1 January 15 2014 at 8:32 PM

I am so glad to see that some are not on a pro life - pro abortion rant and rave. I agree with the posts that I read that says we do not know if the fetus is still a viable fetus. Yes, God in the end will make the ultimate decision here. I just pray that however this story plays out, that the family members are supporting one another. It is a very difficult situation and anytime one loses a child it is a tragedy. I lost my son and I know how gut wrenching it feels. The last thing anyone of them need is to have judgemental people around them. They are in a horrific situation and it is a private hell and not one that should be made out to be a pro life, pro abortion debate. If you don't have anything good to say that will help this family, then I kindly ask you to keep your opinions to yourself I pray they find the guidness they are so obviously looking for. I just know that they will have my prayers going their way hoping they find the relief that are so desperately seeking.

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steph & shawn January 15 2014 at 2:25 PM

No matter which "side" your on or which point we debate on here the fact remains that a pregnant Mom has lost her life & is on life support while she is carrying a baby that no one clearly knows whether he/she too has suffered oxygen loss & brain damage from the incident that cause the Mother's brain to as they say "die." Nobody wins here, not the Mom, the baby nor the family & husband. I believe we all feel passionate about our beliefs & in my personal opinion I think we all state valid reasons on both sides. I just pray that God intervenes & does what is best for both Mom & baby because in the end, it will be Him that gets the final decision & what we all feel & think cannot change that.

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honeyrose3332 January 15 2014 at 12:23 PM

I meant you don't wish for life-sustaining measures, not which.

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honeyrose3332 January 15 2014 at 12:22 PM

This is why it is so important to have a Living Will, which states in black and white you don't which for any life-sustaining measures. Also called an Advanced Directive. It is not legally binding to just verbally express your feelings regarding life and death situations. If a woman is pregnant or planning to be she should include in that Living Will her directive about the pregnancy. Then all should be legally binding and the hospital held to follow the patient's wishes.

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baroquenmetal January 15 2014 at 12:21 PM

This is a very sad tragedy, and no one is to blame for it. The family deserves our prayers, not our condemnation.
. That said, I don't think the law the hospital claims to be following, involving life support for pregnant women, applies here. You cannot give ''life sustaining'' treatment to a person who is already dead. Especially since Ms Munoz, who was a paramedic, made it perfectly clear to her family that she would NOT want to be kept on life support in this situation.
I don't know the state of the fetus and neither does anybody else here, and it is none of our business. I am a retired therapist, and my sense of it is that the baby was probably deprived of oxygen too long to be viable. In any case, we will never know the whole story, and therefore we should not judge what this family does.

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madhattertable1 January 15 2014 at 10:36 AM

if you "terminate" the living fetus out of "fear"....that it is "defective"....seems to me we are on the road to "terminate" ...EVERY "defective" child or adult....because too inconvenient. What an insane culture we have become. Terminating life.....indulging ourselves into utter darkness. When the real threat....one should fear....is the political system become "the beast"....once a government of the people and by the people...treating each other as we desire to be treated. People get the "beast" they deserve....their PERFECT reflection. Wow. We...are....the beast.
We would disgust the hearts, minds, souls of our nation's forefathers.

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melissa January 15 2014 at 10:32 AM

If any of you people had read the story it states that she was 14 weeks pregnant when this happened on NOVEMBER 26. It has now been approximately 7 weeks, so the fetus is now 21 weeks. At 23 weeks they have a chance of survival outside the mothers body. Keeping her "alive" for another 9 weeks to deliver the baby is not going to harm the family other then maybe having a baby who has some issues. If they cant deal with it then they can give it up for adoption.

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1 reply to melissa's comment
melissa January 15 2014 at 10:43 AM

survival rates by gestation:
23 weeks 10-30%
24 weeks 40-70%
25 weeks 50-80%
26 weeks 80-90%
27 weeks >90%
30 weeks >95%
34 weeks >98%

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jetraija January 15 2014 at 10:31 AM

so sad for all involved, so sad :-(

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jpmoody January 15 2014 at 10:31 AM

Marlise Munoz is now 21 weeks pregnant (if she was 14 weeks pregnant Nov. 26th). Around 20 percent of preemies born at 22-23 weeks gestation live, and 50 percent of preemies born at 24 weeks live. Why is this family in such a hurry to turn off the life support which is keeping their unborn child or grandchild alive. Marlise was 14 weeks pregnant when this incident happened. It may be assumed that if she had not wanted her unborn baby to live, she would have had an abortion prior to this time. So they should consider that Marlise's wish was for her baby to live. If she is now brain-dead and unable to continue advocating for her child, the hospital has an obligation to "first do no harm" and needs to continue the fight to save the life of this child, even over the objections of his or her father and grandparents.

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2 replies to jpmoody's comment
mykell069 January 15 2014 at 11:02 AM

Or maybe, since she was only 14 weeks when it happened, neither her nor her husband knew that she was pregnant until said incident. The mother's body is DEAD and it is likely that if this baby is born, it will suffer severe complications because of the amount of time the mother's body was without oxygen. Stop putting words in a dead woman's mouth by saying that it was her wish for her child to live. I, as a mother, wouldn't want my last gift to my family to be a severely premature baby with a lot of medical expenses and complications that my family will have to deal with emotionally and financially for the rest of their lives.

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fernando January 15 2014 at 11:16 AM

Obsession with "healthy", perhaps...

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Kellie January 15 2014 at 10:21 AM

Looks to me like the hospital would still be breaking the law because the baby is still alive and by giving giving care to the mothers body is in turn giving lifesaving support to a living person. Is there a law there that states that the hospital cannot use the mothers body as a means of life support for the child who does not have an end of life directive? because remember the mother is the only person who has the right to request an abortion and she id dead so the state now controls the rights of the baby. Unless you believe. like some people do that a fetus is no more a living thing than the package of ground beef at the market.

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