Hospital Sued In Texas Life-Support Case

Erick Munoz, the Texas man whose brain-dead, pregnant wife is being kept on life support against her family's wishes, has filed a lawsuit against the Fort Worth, Texas hospital at the center of the case. Munoz is suing John Peter Smith Hospital, where his wife, Marlise, has been since she suffered a possible pulmonary embolism on Nov. 26.

Munoz says that keeping Marlise on life support is against her wishes. But doctors have their hands tied, because Texas law dictates that she must stay on life support as long as her now-14-week-old fetus has a heartbeat.

The lawsuit states:

JPS has informed Erick and his family that Marlise Munoz is brain dead, and as such, Erick asserts that she is legally dead under Texas law. Despite the fact that Marlise is dead, JPS refuses to remove Marlise from the ‘life sustaining’ treatment, thus mutilating, disturbing and damaging Marlise’s deceased body, and further refusing to release it to Erick for proper preservation and burial.

Erick, along with Marlise's parents, argues that her condition renders her legally dead. He's also pointed out that he and his wife, who worked as paramedics, had discussed life support, and Marlise opposed the idea of being kept alive via machine. The couple have a one-year-old son.

There's also a concern that Marlise's unborn child may have already suffered brain damage; it's unclear how long Marlise was without oxygen. And, according to a Dallas Morning News editorial, it's possible that “additional, irreversible damage was inflicted by the electric shocks and drugs administered to revive Munoz’s body.”

Some experts have suggested the Texas law be revoked in this case, because brain death isn't specifically covered in the law.

"It simply says that if you were to take the life support away, you'd be outside the subchapter," said Tom Mayo, a Southern Methodist University law professor. "It doesn't have an affirmative command in it that you must keep life support going."