Man sues hospital to remove pregnant wife from life support

Man sues hospital to remove pregnant wife from life support

Credit: Munoz family

Marlise Munoz has been on life support since November 26. Her husband, Erick, tells News 8 she has not regained consciousness and is "simply a shell." Tests are done daily on the 14-week-old fetus, and results show a normal heart beat.

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by MARJORIE OWENS

WFAA

Posted on January 14, 2014 at 11:33 AM

FORT WORTH — A Haltom City man has filed a lawsuit against John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth in an effort to remove his pregnant wife from life support.

In the lawsuit, Erick Munoz's lawyers claim keeping 33-year-old Marlise Munoz on life support is against her Fourteenth Amendment right.

On the morning of Nov. 26, Mr. Munoz found his wife unconscious on the floor of the couple's kitchen. Mr. Munoz said later that day he was told by doctors at JPS Hospital that his wife — 14 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child — was brain dead.

"Erick Munoz vehemently opposes any further medical treatment to be undertaken on the deceased body of his wife," read the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Tarrant County.

While tests on his wife's fetus show a normal heartbeat, Mr. Munoz said it was against his wife's wishes to be kept alive by a machine.

However, officials at JPS Hospital say it would be against the law to remove Mrs. Munoz from life support based on Section 1666.049 of the Texas Health and Safety Code.

"A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient," reads the code.

However, in the suit, Munoz's lawyers cited Section 671.001 of the Texas Health and Safety Code:

“(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.”

“In the alternative, Section 166.049 is unconstitutional as applied to Marlise as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States,” the suit reads.

Both paramedics, the couple had extensive talks about life support, Mr. Munoz said.

Mrs. Munoz's parents have backed up her husband's efforts to remove their daughter from life support.

"There was a lot of twinkle in our eyes, and a lot of smiles and laughter and not anymore," said Lynne Machado, Marlise's mother, in a News 8 report on Jan. 8. "It’s just barely getting through the day."

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