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Man Sues Fort Worth Hospital To Have Pregnant Wife Taken Off Life Support

Marlise Munoz, right, has been on life support since November. Her husband, Erick, is on the left.

The husband of a pregnant North Texas woman on life support is suing the hospital to have her removed from life support.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in state district court asks a judge to order John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth to remove life support for Marlise Muñoz, a Haltom City woman who fell unconscious in November while pregnant.

KERA’s Lauren Silverman spoke with SMU Law professor and medical ethicist Tom Mayo.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of a hospital insisting on treatment over the objection of a family,” he says. “It is more of an ethical issue than a legal issue I think.”

Mayo says it is not illegal for a doctor to withdraw life support on a pregnant patient in Texas.

Erick Muñoz, Marlise's husband, says a doctor at the hospital told him his wife is considered brain-dead. Munoz and his wife are paramedics who agreed they would not want life support in this situation.

But hospital officials say Texas law prohibits them from following Marlise Muñoz's wishes because she is pregnant. The hospital has said she isn’t dead and that her condition is serious.

The lawsuit accuses the hospital of misapplying the law because Muñoz is legally considered dead.

The Tarrant County District Attorney’s office, which is representing the hospital in the lawsuit, said it became aware of the suit just before noon Tuesday and will file a response. The office said in a statement that it would have no comment on the suit.

The lawsuit states that the Muñoz family expressed to each other, as well as to family members and friends, their desires not to be resuscitated should either become brain dead.

In November, Erick Muñoz found his wife unconscious on her kitchen floor. She was about 14 weeks pregnant with her second child.

At John Peter Smith Hospital, doctors informed Erick Muñoz that his wife had “lost all activity in her brain stem, and was for all purposes brain dead," the suit states.

Erick Muñoz also saw “brain dead” listed in writing in her medical charts.

“Erick has been informed by JPS, and from that information believes, that Marlise is brain dead,” the lawsuit states.

The suit states that despite her being brain dead, the hospital has placed her on a respirator. A doctor told the family she couldn’t be taken off life support since the state doesn’t allow doctors to cut off life support to pregnant patients.

Lawsuit filed by Erick Munoz against John Peter Smith Hospital by KERANews