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

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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  • fiona64

    A 14-week non-viable fetus is NOT a “baby.” Your suggestion that this poor woman’s cadaver be kept alive by artificial means to gestate a fetus that is most likely not viable due to cerebral hypoxia, is *sick.* You and your fellow anti-choicers have always acted like women are nothing more than incubators; now you’ve come right out and said so.

  • RonPaul2012

    They are not fighting to abort it. They are fighting to allow her dignity in death without being used as an object. Don’t even pretend that you know what is happening to this family. To say that they are fighting tooth and nail to kill the fetus is obscene, and quite honestly ridiculous. Get over yourself.

    • L-dan

      Even if they were. Abortion at 14 weeks is legal. If she is brain dead, her family (specifically her husband) is legally allowed to make such decisions.

      If he, knowing how much his wife did not want to be on life support, but also knowing how much she/they wanted this baby, had weighed all of that and come to the decision that she should be kept on life support on the chance that there might be a decent outcome for the fetus? I would still find it ghoulish, but would support that the family made that decision. Grief does some strange things.

      • RonPaul2012
        • L-dan

          Nice, and very detailed. It collects several things I’d seen elsewhere about the legal doubts about ‘treating’ a dead ‘patient’ and a ton of other things. That was a lot of work and research.

          • RonPaul2012
          • Jennifer Starr

            Found out some stuff about James Finnegan–he’s a 79 year old anti-choice activist from Barrington Illinois who has been known to stalk doctors and clinic workers and picket people’s homes. There’s even a video of him with some other people harassing a doctor. Nasty piece of work. dot com/watch?v=kNzvBYnbDKk

          • RonPaul2012

            Good work as always! And big surprise, these are the guys who claim to be helpless victims of the evil Marcotte!

          • HeilMary1

            I’ll bet he has sex skeletons in his closet too.

          • L-dan

            That one will take a while to read. But I even vaguely recognize some of the names in the cites, which is sort of gratifying in a ‘my brain hasn’t entirely rotted’ way.

            It does tend to be interesting. Those folks are sort of off in a rarified air, but the stuff hashed out there often does eventually filter down to informing scientific paradigm…and vice versa.

          • RonPaul2012

            I haven’t even cracked it open yet:P

            And yes, they are. The people on secular pro-life are currently discussing the concept of ‘identity’ and it’s getting REALLLLLY convoluted. Turns out the dude I was complaining about has a degree in philosophy. So, if he wants to ‘win’ by playing word games, he can, easily. It’s annoying. I prefer people like Dawkins who stick to making arguments in plain English that the average person can understand. The problem with the word games and the really convoluted thought is that if you’re clever enough, you can make just about *anything* sound reasonable. I mean, a creationist, through pure rhetorical skill, can easily run roughshod over a scientist. One method is the “Gish Gallop” I believe:P

            What’s funny is, all of the pro-lifers seem to have a different concept of what ‘identity’ means. According to one guy, your identity is in your genes, because only THOSE GENES will react in a specific way to the environment/coding errors etc. therefore, there could be 100000000 versions of you, but they would all have the essence of YOU. I guess it’s like saying that a block of marble in the ground has the essence of every statue that you could possibly ever carve eh?

            The philosophy guy is saying that even though, say, in the future, his brain could be uploaded to a machine, and that say, thousands of him could be created through that method, it would not be ‘him’ anymore, because his mind arises from HIS BODY. And when that body is gone, it’s no longer him! But, by fellow #1’s reasoning, and by the example of twins, I think we could conclude that it WOULD be him, just different versions, no?

            He then went on to say that fetuses do not exhibit the traits of personhood , but neither do infants, and we don’t kill infants, therefore, we shouldn’t kill fetuses either! Because we admit that it is wrong to deprive an infant of potential – therefore, it is wrong to deprive a zygote of potential. He’s just exhibiting prejudice here – in favour of human DNA. And ignoring the obvious differences between an infant and a zygote…

            We’re saying that the right to life doesn’t require personhood. The potential for personhood is sufficient.

            He goes on to admit that yes, zygotes are merely human organisms, BUT, since they have the potential for personhood ,they are MORE IMPORTANT than any woman and her ‘lived experiences’ which don’t override the right to live. How misogynist.

            And I LOVE this one, from another philosopher:

            As I said a self assembling or organizing entity that has a latent
            important defining capacity can still definitionally be called that
            thing. Self assembly conceptually allows this. There is no

            Really? A mindless biological process makes something a person???

            There is enough philosophy out there that talks about our identity being
            intimately connected to the ‘other’ and I see personhood on similar
            grounds. We aren’t an organism in isolation but one that takes a lot of
            time to develop and much of that is done socially. Our cultural
            information/learning my not be in our genes but is part of ‘us’ as an
            extended group. In other words in a sense there are no singular human
            organisms but a species or group membership. It is just some of our
            development is genetic some is cultural. Therefore we can still be
            thought of a persons even if the genetics isn’t fully there.

            Ohhhh, a zygote is a member of the human species, therefore, it’s a person and must be protected! Prejudice in favour of human DNA because it’s human DNA is your argument??? And I guess ‘culture’ is partially a euphemism for ‘epigenetics’.

            Every one of these arguments is just an attempt to equate the potential with the actual. It’s all they have.

          • L-dan

            Philosophy, and even ‘purer’ elements of science can get you to places that are not backed up by the world. Which is where you need that whole ‘observation’ part of the scientific method to kick in.

            There’s a fairly classic one about being able to calculate how long a thrown object will take to travel half the distance to its destination. And then you do it again…and again…and theoretically there’s always some itty bitty fraction of a second in which it travels half the remaining distance. So when does it actually hit? Obviously at some point the matter of the thrown object interacts with the matter of the struck object in the real world. But the pure world, without all the actual forces and interactions added in, gives you an incomplete result. (I’m pulling this from memory, and may be mischaracterizing parts of that particular thought experiment, but I think I’ve got the gist of it.)

            From the article, I particularly like “some authors preferring to describe the organism as a continuous property and individuals being more or less organisms, depending on how strongly they fulfill the criterion of “organismicity”” When there is still as much debate over what an ‘organism’ is, how do we get to settle on a solid definition of ‘person’? And certainly the two terms are not synonymous. Heck, I started studying when they were still arguing whether viruses are ‘alive’…and then prions made things even stranger.

            It’s telling that the forced birthers want to skip the idea that ‘person’ is not a binary on/off switch, but a developing quality over time. This is because they don’t want to allow *any* abortions. So fertilized eggs must be people, because that’s the only position that allows for their binary abortion legal/illegal mindset. You can see this in the way they continually come back to pulling babies into pieces, as if a second trimester abortion is equivalent to the first trimester ones that make up nearly 90% of them. If killing an infant is bad, so is killing a late term fetus, or an early term one, or a blastocyst…

            Self assembly does not mean that the starting point = the end point. An acorn is even more self-assembling than a human embryo, but nobody says that an acorn is equivalent to an oak tree that just needs some development.

            Development is an important part of the end result. I can see the “what am ‘I'” question being one that has to include both genetics and cultural inputs. That doesn’t mean that potential is actual. I need a lot of schooling to become a doctor. Infant-me wasn’t somehow a pre-taught doctor, if I later become a doctor. I’m not a ‘pre-cancerous person’ should the latent potential in my genes ever decide to develop into cancer.

            Similarly, you can split a fertilized egg into multiple parts early in development, and each of those will become a separate embryo. (basically how identical twins form) Those are obviously different people once they’re developed. But prior to a certain point, you can put those separated ones back together (or even merge different ones-hence chimerae). If a fertilized egg is a ‘person’ from the moment of conception, this sort of behavior is pretty odd. Our concept of person doesn’t really allow for splitting them into separate ones or smushing them together into a single one.

            Infants display something we consider a fairly important part of personhood, in my opinion, their brain is taking in stimuli and actively learning from it. Arguably, very late term fetuses are also doing some of this in so far as they seem to ‘remember’ tunes and voices on some level. They’re also actively learning to manipulate that environment. Fetuses manipulate their environment on a mindless biochemical level, which is the same as a paramecium ‘learning’ to avoid a shock. I’m perfectly happy to entertain debate about where, post-viability, does ‘personhood’ develop, but, as mentioned above, the actual goals of most of that crowd don’t allow for such debate. Not least because, as has been pointed out over and over elsewhere, the actual goal is to control women (since it breaks their brain to think of pregnant people who are not women).

          • RonPaul2012

            An acorn is even more self-assembling than a human embryo, but nobody
            says that an acorn is equivalent to an oak tree that just needs some

            Which is funny because pro-lifers have taken to arguing that an acorn is simply an ‘immature oak tree’.

            They have to twist reality to remain consistent.

            . Arguably, very late term fetuses are also doing some of this in so far
            as they seem to ‘remember’ tunes and voices on some level. They’re also
            actively learning to manipulate that environment.

            Which is why I like to use the capacity for sentience as my dividing line.

            Fetuses manipulate their environment on a mindless biochemical level,
            which is the same as a paramecium ‘learning’ to avoid a shock

            Yep. Only it gets confusing because most of the literature about fetal development refers to how ‘your baby is learning, hearing, and developing a memory by the 10th week’ etc…it gives the wrong impression, as if the embryo is *consciously* doing these things. Take the case of the ears. And balance. From what I have read, apparently as the fetal sense of ‘balance’ develops, it will ‘right’ itself in the womb depending on how the woman moves about. Of course, this gives the impression that the fetus is consciously ‘righting’ itself.

            Not least because, as has been pointed out over and over elsewhere, the
            actual goal is to control women (since it breaks their brain to think
            of pregnant people who are not women).

            My two favourite questions are 1) how much jail time for a 7 week abortion 2) rape exception

            They claim that a woman should not be punished for the crime of ‘murder’ because she…is either brainwashed by pro-aborts or will ‘answer to god’. And they bring up excuses to avoid answering, such as ‘mitigating circumstances’ or ‘let the courts decide.

            Why so tough to give a straight answer about the punishment? If I asked a random person ‘how much jail time for killing a toddler?’ they wouldn’t refuse to answer to make excuses! So why do they so in the case of abortion? Especially when they keep screaming ‘baby killer’ and ‘genocide?’ They claim this isn’t a ‘gotcha’ but I don’t see how it can’t be?

            In the case of 2, they claim that the rape exception is still in line with their beliefs because a) the woman did not herself choose to put the innocent baby in harm’s way, and is therefore not beholden to protect and nurture it b) they want to find the best moral outcome for all….yet they assure us that their pov is not ‘inconsistent’, and therefore, we cannot use it as a gotcha…

            But if neither 1 nor 2 can be used to justify killing a toddler, then why can they be used to justify killing an embryo? Of course, they will make the excuse that ‘we must use 1 and 2 in order to prevent as many babies from being killed as possible, and sadly, the public won’t support forced pregnancy in the case of rape or the imprisonment of women.’ <–Which is just a weak excuse, imo. If you REALLY care about life, why make any excuses at all? They like to say that they are simply being pragmatic but I don't buy it..

    • HeilMary1

      I wonder how many dozens of coffee-aborted “baby” tampons Janice has never bothered to rescue, freeze and re-implant?

  • Ella Warnock

    What about it?

  • Ella Warnock

    I’m proud I got the hell out of Texas before all the lunacy started. My family has been there 7 generations, and I cannot believe that good, independent-minded people are allowing the state to be overrun and are going down with the ship disastrously captained by the teabaggers and fundie conservatives.

    I do fervently hope that they never get the opportunity to destroy Austin. It’s the last bastion for free-thinkers in Texas.

  • Jennifer Starr

    It doesn’t matter what you think they should want or what you think that they should ‘think about’.This family does not want their daughter’s dead body to be used as a thing to gestate a non-viable fetus. Their daughter would not have wanted that. This should be a private family matter–for the State government to do this is just obscene.

  • fiona64

    Of course it’s futile … and, unfortunately, it is a beautiful illustration of the anti-choice mindset: women have no function other than as incubators. It is cruel and inhumane to keep a cadaver going by artificial means for no other reason than to gestate a (most likely doomed) fetus.

  • L-dan

    Are you implying that they *don’t* realize that she’s pregnant? Because I don’t see any point to your question otherwise.

    Because the answer is that it’s not viable and there is zero indication that she or the family wanted to take such extraordinary steps to save it. In the case of a miscarriage, the hospital would be ethically required *not* to try putting a 14 week old fetus on life support of any sort. It would be an expensive and cruel way of offering false hope to do so. And yet, because instead of miscarrying, they ended up with a fetus in a dead body, they felt they could instead go the ghoulish, expensive, and similarly unethical route of using the corpse, against the stated wishes of the family and the woman herself, as life support.

    Were she alive and miscarrying at 14 weeks, and for some reason the hospital thought that going on complete bed rest would save it, she would not be required to abide by that recommendation. Yet now they can violate her wishes in this fashion for a very slight outcome?

    Really, there is no direction I can look at this from that justifies what they have done. I’m sorry that you are so hung up on the idea that a 14 week fetus somehow has any rights, that you can’t see the pain and suffering of the actual people in her family.

  • redlemon

    “I hope they take the time to think about the unborn child. If they dont then I hope the courts will.”

    So you hope they take the time to come to the same conclusions that you have and, if they don’t, you hope a court will order them to do things your way?

  • HeilMary1

    And then fascist you will whine about the millions needed to keep this BRAIN-DEAD newborn alive for the next 80 YEARS!

  • lady_black

    At 14 weeks, as now, there is no “baby.” I’m very sure her husband and her parents are aware that she’s pregnant. These people are being forced into a funeral that has now stretched out almost two months. They can’t even mourn her and lay her to rest. How cruel is that? They don’t even know that if there is a baby resulting from this, it will be ok. The entire situation is sad. Unfortunately what the hospital is doing is just making everything worse. Maybe you would have no problem turning your loved one into a utilitarian object. I sure would have a problem with it.

  • Ella Warnock

    Oh, ffs, now every pro-liar and their MOTHER-IN-LAW are jumping on the bandwagon.

    “Injunctive relief for a a parent or grandparent.” I think my head is gonna explode. When I think of the idea of *my* mother being consulted in any way about any of my health decisions over the past seven years – well, let’s just say she would have *cared* me into an early grave. But, just, the HUBRIS. I’m going to have to sit down and think about this for a while because there’s just an overload of this kind of thing coming

    I’ll say this, though, to all women: If you find out you’re pregnant, I urge you to NOT tell anyone until you’ve decided what you’re going to do about it.

  • Jamie Leverich

    The “fetus’s” condition was not stated. And no I am not anti-choice. I just put my Opinion out there right or wrong this is how I feel. If there is something wring with the baby/ fetus( whatever you prefer to call it) then no they shouldnt sustain life. When yiu loise a loved one it is a very difficult thing to deal with and when you cant get closer with a burial or cremation or whayever you choice is it is harder( speaking from personal experience) I just wondered if they had thought about the possibility of a healthy baby coming into the world. I dont judge anyone everyone had their own opinion or set of beliefs. That’s why we have freedom ofapeech and freedom to have our own personal thoughts. Sorry if I offened anyone. I just want to clear up the fact that just because I believe what i do in this case, it doesnt mean that I think all women are nothing but baby making machines. As a mother of two fun and smart kids I just know what joy they bring to my life , and would wantthe same for anyone else who wants children.

    • Jennifer Starr

      I think it’s wonderful that you enjoy your kids.I bet they’re awesome. But this woman is not you, this fetus is not yours, and this is not your husband or your family. Yes, you stated your opinion, as is your right. And my opinion remains that the people best qualified to speak for what this woman would want are the people who actually knew and loved this woman, who know what her wishes were and who are trying to honor those wishes and mourn the person that she was. And it’s not your business to tell them what they should be considering. Message boards are full of total strangers who never even met this woman and are presuming to know what she would want, making her husband and family into the villains and even vultures who want to adopt this fetus. And they need to butt the hell out. This should be a private family matter, not decided by you, or me, and certainly not by the courts or the state government. Period.

    • lady_black

      The condition of the fetus is hopelessly compromised. We now know there will be no “healthy baby.” The fetus is deformed to the extent that sex cannot be determined, and suffers from hydrocephalus. Other problems are suspected, but cannot be determined due to the immobile condition of the dead body in which it is contained. Now can we PLEASE stop this outrageous abuse of a corpse, disconnect this poor woman and et her family bury her, and get on with their grieving?