Marlise Munoz has been on life support since Nov. 26, 2013. Her husband, Erick, tells WFAA-TV she has not regained consciousness and is "simply a shell." Tests are done daily on the fetus, and results show a normal heart beat. (Photo: Munoz family)
FORT WORTH (USA TODAY) -- A Texas man has filed a lawsuit against a Fort Worth hospital in an effort to remove his pregnant brain-dead wife from life support.
the lawsuit, Erick Munoz's lawyers claim that keeping 33-year-old
Marlise Munoz on life support is against her 14th Amendment right since
she told loved ones she didn't want to be kept alive by a machine.
Fourteenth Amendment provides that no State shall 'deprive any person
of life, liberty or property, without due process of law,; " the suit
reads. "The principle that a competent person has a constitutionally
protected liberty interest in making decisions regarding their own body
began at common law."
The lawsuit further states since Marlise Munoz is brain dead, she "cannot possibly be a 'pregnant patient.' "
the morning of Nov. 26, Munoz found his wife unconscious on the floor
of the couple's kitchen. Munoz said later that day he was told by
doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital that his wife - who was 14 weeks
pregnant with the couple's second child - was brain dead.
Doctors told her family they suspect she suffered a pulmonary embolism.
then, Munoz has been in a battle with the hospital to remove his wife
from life support. While tests on his wife's fetus show a normal
heartbeat, Munoz said it was against his wife's wishes to be kept alive
by a machine.
"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, Texas.
at John Peter Smith Hospital say it would be against the law to remove
Marlise Munoz from life support based on Section 166.049 of the Texas
Health and Safety Code.
"A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient," the code reads.
cases of Marlise Munoz and Jahi McMath, 13, who was declared brain dead
after suffering rare complications from a Dec. 9 tonsillectomy, have
shone a spotlight on end-of-life issues. Jahi's family wanted to keep
her on a ventilator, while the hospital she was in wanted to remove it.
She was transported to a new facility where she remains on a ventilator.
STORY: Ethicists criticize treatment of teen, Texas patient
In Munoz's lawsuit, his lawyers cite 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
(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."
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, Munoz said.
Marlise Munoz's parents have backed up her husband's efforts to remove their daughter from life support.
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 WFAA-TV report
on Jan. 8. "It's just barely getting through the day."
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