Family files suit to remove pregnant woman said to brain dead from life support


By Dave Andrusko

Erick and Marlise Munoz with their first child, Mateo

Erick and Marlise Munoz with their first child, Mateo

The family of Marlise Machado Muñoz, the pregnant woman who collapsed from an apparent pulmonary embolism November 26 , filed suit in Tarrant County civil court Tuesday, requesting the court to issue an order requiring John Peter Smith Hospital “to immediately cease conducting any further medical procedures and to remove Marlise from any respirators, ventilators or other ‘life support,’” the Star-Telegram newspaper reported.

Mrs. Muñoz entered her 20th week of pregnancy January 6.

The hospital, which refused comment today, has cited a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act as the reason it has not taken Mrs. Munoz off of life support. It reads: “A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.”

Previously, Jill Labbe, a spokeswoman for the hospital, told the New York Times, “In all cases, J.P.S. [Hospital] will follow the law as it applies to health care in the state of Texas. Every day, we have patients and families who must make difficult decisions. Our position remains the same. We follow the law.”

She added that neither she nor the doctors “could answer questions about Mrs. Munoz’s condition because her husband had not signed the paperwork allowing them to speak to the news media about his wife’s care.”

Her husband, Erick Munoz, “said a doctor told him his wife is considered brain-dead,” the Associated Press reported.

The lawsuit states that “Marlise Muñoz is legally dead, and to further conduct surgical procedures on a deceased body is nothing short of outrageous.”

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The family insists that Mrs. Muñoz and her husband, who are both paramedics, “had discussed removing life support if either fell into a vegetative state,” according to reporter Max Baker of the Star-Telegram.

Heather King and Jessica Hall Janicek, Erick Munoz’s lawyers, asked for an expedited answer from the court. As of early this afternoon, no hearing had been scheduled.

Marlise Munoz, 33, the mother of 15-month-old Mateo, was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed on her kitchen floor in November. Munoz tried to resuscitate his wife and called for an ambulance. Doctors restarted Ms. Munoz’s heart in the emergency room.

Her mother, Mrs. Lynne Machado, told the New York Times’ Manny Fernandez and Erik Eckholm that “the doctors had told her that they would make a decision about what to do with the fetus as it reached 22 to 24 weeks, and that they had discussed whether her daughter could carry the baby to full term to allow for a cesarean-section delivery.”

Doctors are monitoring the baby’s condition. For reasons not entirely clear in current or recent stories, Mr. Munoz says he believes his wife was without oxygen for some time before he found her early the morning of November 26.

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