News Human Rights

Marlise Munoz’s Husband Sues to Stop Hospital’s ‘Cruel and Obscene’ Treatment

Andrea Grimes

The husband of the 33-year-old pregnant Texas woman who collapsed in her home just before Thanksgiving has filed suit against the hospital that refuses to take her off life support, despite her stated wishes against such treatment.

Read more of our coverage on Marlise Munoz’s case here.

The husband of the 33-year-old pregnant Texas woman who collapsed in her home just before Thanksgiving has filed suit against the hospital that refuses to take her off life support. In court documents, Erick Munoz says his wife, Marlise, a paramedic, never wanted to be kept on life support, and that state law, and John Peter Smith Hospital’s interpretation of the law, have violated her constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment.

Representatives for John Peter Smith (JPS) Hospital in Fort Worth have said they have no choice but to obey a Texas statute that dictates doctors “may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant person. However, Erick Munoz contends in court documents that “Marlise’s medical charts indicated in writing that she was ‘brain dead,'” and that there can be no “life-sustaining treatment” when there is no living patient to treat.

Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed in the early hours of November 26. Her husband says doctors have planned to keep her body on a ventilator for months, until they can further assess the health of the fetus or induce delivery once it reaches viability in several weeks.

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In Erick Munoz’s view, this amounts to JPS “mutilating, disturbing and damaging Marlise’s deceased body,” according to court documents in which he asks a Tarrant County court to “order JPS to immediately discontinue” any treatment.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Texas Health and Safety Code section on advanced directives violates Marlise Munoz’s constitutional right to privacy and to equal protection of the law. According to court documents, the code “treats pregnant women, regardless of the state of gestation, different from everyone else, and draws a distinction between pregnant women and other persons.”

Marlise Munoz’s parents are in agreement with their son-in-law, and have confirmed that their daughter was aware of the realities of brain death and never wanted to be put on life support. According to Erick Munoz’s motion to compel the removal of his wife from “life sustaining measures,” her death “is a horrible and tragic circumstance, but by no means should JPS be entitled to continue cutting into her deceased body in front of her husband and family under the guise of ‘life sustaining’ treatment.”

JPS representatives have not yet issued a statement on Munoz’s lawsuit, though they said late last week that the hospital was “encouraged” by the Munoz family’s decision to retain legal counsel, because “the courts are the appropriate venue to provide clarity, direction and resolution in this matter.”

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