Husband Sues Hospital to Let Wife Die
FORT WORTH (CN) - A Texas paramedic sued a hospital today demanding that his pregnant wife be removed from life support, claiming she is brain-dead and rejected such treatment.
Erick Munoz sued John Peter Smith Hospital as husband and next friend of "Marlise Munoz, deceased," in Tarrant County Court.
He wants the Fort Worth hospital ordered to stop administering life-sustaining care.
The couple had been married for less than a year when Erick found his wife unconscious on the kitchen floor on Nov. 26 last year. She was 14 weeks pregnant with their second child.
"Erick and Marlise worked as paramedics during their marriage, and thus were knowledgeable of and had personally witnessed injuries that resulted in death, including brain death," the complaint states. "Erick and Marlise frequently discussed their requests, beliefs and desires with each other, and expressed clearly to each other, family members and friends, their respective desires not to be resuscitated should either of them become brain dead."
Erick claims in the lawsuit that while doctors at the hospital have declared Marlise brain dead, the hospital insists on treating her with a respirator and through other measures.
The lawsuit lays out the parties' conflicting interpretations of Texas law: "On or about November 26, 2013, upon learning that Marlise was brain dead, Erick, with the full support of Marlise's parents, Lynne Machado and Ernest Machado, informed JPS doctors and staff of Marlise's wishes not to remain on any 'life sustaining' treatment. However, despite the wishes of Marlise, Erick, and Marlise's family, JPS refused to remove the 'life sustaining' treatment from Marlise, citing Texas Health and Safety Code Section 166.049 as its basis for such refusal.
"Texas Health and Safety Code Section 166.049 states that 'a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.'
"However, the Texas Health and Safety Code also states in Section 671.001 that '(a) A person is dead when, according to ordinary standards of medical practice, there is irreversible cessation of the person's spontaneous respiratory and circulatory functions ... (b) If artificial means of support preclude a determination that a person's spontaneous respiratory and circulatory functions have ceased, the person is dead when, in the announced opinion of a physician, according to ordinary standards of medical practice, there is irreversible cessation of all spontaneous brain function. Death occurs when the relevant functions cease.'" (Ellipsis in complaint.)
The case has made national news. Protesters on both sides of the issue - if a woman can be considered an issue - gathered at the hospital Sunday.
Munoz is represented by Jessica Hall Janicek with KoonsFuller, of Southlake, Texas.
The Tarrant County District Attorney said in a statement today that he would represent the hospital, and declined further comment.