Lawsuit Seeks to Stop Life Support For Brain-Dead Woman

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(CNN) — The husband of a pregnant, brain-dead Texas woman filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to force the hospital to take her off life support.

The family also wants the hospital to turn the body of Marlise Munoz over for a proper burial.

The lawsuit argues the 33-year-old woman is dead, so a Texas law cited by the hospital that makes it illegal to withhold life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant woman is moot.

What the hospital is doing “amounts to nothing more than the cruel and obscene mutilation of a deceased body against the expressed will of the deceased and her family,” according to the lawsuit.

“In sum, Marlise Munoz’s death is a horrible and tragic circumstance, but by no means should (the hospital) be entitled to continue cutting into her deceased body in front of her husband and family under the guise of ‘life sustaining’ treatment,” according to the lawsuit.

The Tarrant County district attorney’s office said it will defend the medical facility against the lawsuit. It is legal counsel for John Peter Smith Hospital “in a number of civil areas.”

Noting it first learned of the legal action just before noon Tuesday, the office said it “will file a response in due course” but won’t have any further comment now “because litigation is pending.”

Munoz’s family says she has been brain-dead since her husband, Erick Munoz, found her unconscious at their home on November 26. At the time, she was 14 weeks’ pregnant with the couple’s second child.

The family says the fetus may have been deprived of oxygen.

Her family says Marlise Munoz had given clear — if unwritten — instructions that she did not want her life to be prolonged by a ventilator or other artificial means, but they say officials at the Fort Worth, Texas, hospital have refused to disconnect her life support.

In December, a hospital spokeswoman said the facility was just following Texas law.

“And state law here says you cannot withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient. It’s that clear,” hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said.

Last week, Labbe told CNN that the hospital believed “the courts are the appropriate venue to provide clarity, direction and resolution in this matter.”

One legal expert consulted by CNN said last week he believes the hospital is misinterpreting the law, which he helped write.

“The two things I think are fundamentally wrong about the hospital’s position here are: First of all, she’s not a patient anymore,” Southern Methodist University law professor Tom Mayo said. “And so I don’t see how we can use a provision of the law that talks about treating or not treating a patient in a case where we really don’t have a patient.”

13 comments

  • Jacqueline

    Put your end-of-life wishes in writing, people. Signed, dated, witnessed and notarized. Also have your doctor sign a do not resuscitate order.

      • Martha Valentin

        I Believe That Who Knows the Baby May have The same Special Needs even if the mother would have lived and gave birth to is baby is a GIFT from God no Matter what And if the mother and Father would have been told of these Special Needs They Would Be having this fight in Court because it wouldn’t be an ISSUE . I AS A MOTHER OF A SPECIAL NEEDS SON BORN WITH DOWNS SYNDROMES I WOULDN”T CHARGE MY SON FOR ANYTHING And Really Do Believe The Same Thing In This Story ,, A Mothers Love Is So Different From The Love Of A Father.. A MOTHER WOULD ALWAYS GIVE_UP HER LIFE FOR HER CHILD AND THIS CASE IS NO DIFFERENT THIS MOTHER WOULD WANT HER BABY TO LIFE NO MATTER WHAT ITS A MOTHERS LOVE……LET THIS BABY LIVE AND IF THE HEARTLESS DOSEN”T WANT HIS CHILD THEN LET SOMEONE THAT CAN”T HAVE CHILD RAISE IT>>>>

  • Angela Petry Huwig

    If I were her husband I would want the baby and try to give it the best chance of survival. He already lost his wife and he’s willing to just let the baby die too. It sounds fishy to me!!!

  • Amy Yarnell

    If the fetus was without oxygen is it even possible for it to survive? Government has no right to interfere with this. The wishes of the mother should be granted. They are torturing this family.

  • Hailey

    We need to consider an addendum for DNR status in case of women being pregnant, being a mother would definitely make a big difference in my choice…my child’s life…

  • Patty Shay

    Why is it that the baby is always disposable?? It’s a “possibility” that this living, growing, child, may have been deprived of oxygen. “A possibility”. It’s, also, a possibility that the child was not deprived of anything. God has chosen to save this child’s life for a reason. Is the family afraid THEY will be inconvenienced by this child? I doubt if the Mother felt that way.

  • Patty Shay

    I wonder if the second lady on the video would’ve wanted her Mother taken off of life support… Yes! I believe GOD has saved this baby, so far, through the things He has allowed doctors and scientists to learn and through the Texas laws.
    God, also, gave every human being “free will” to choose for themselves, how they will go in life. God gave that to this child, as well. Always LIFE, with God!

  • tanisha

    Shocked the daddy doesnt want his child to have a chance. If he doesn’t want the baby theres couples that would want the baby.

  • sarah

    The womans brain stem is not working. A functioning brain stem is needed to grow a baby/sustain pregnancy. This woman is NOT a vessel to carry a child. They already have evidence that the baby has hydrochephilis (Spelling?) The baby will be really messed up. Not every thing need to be born. Theres nothing fishy about it, the baby was deprived of oxygen. and SHOULDNT be carried to term. they should never have hooked her up, especially at 14 weeks.

  • Matt

    Its funny everyone talking about how this case should be in God’s hands. Did anyone stop to think that you took it out of God’s hands when the decision was made to keep her alive with MEDICAL (not GOD) devices. Without medical devices God would have had the mother and child pass away peacefully days ago. Open your eyes people. I pray the family has their wishes granted and life support is withdrawn.

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