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Earlier today, the family of Marlise Munoz announced that John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth had had complied with a court order to remove from life support.  While this ends her two-month ordeal, it will be a hollow gesture unless the Munoz family receives assurances that it will bear no financial burden for what JPS has effectively conceded to be unnecessary treatment.  Tell JPS that they must not put any burden for this ordeal on Marlise's family.

JPS had been weighing whether to appeal an order issued on Friday to disconnect Marlise from life support.  However, the hospital essentially torpedoed any chance of an appeal being successful when its lawyers agreed with the Munoz family's lawyers that Marlise had been brain dead since November 28.  In effect, the hospital conceded that it knew Marlise was legally dead under Texas law, and yet kept her on life support anyway in the name of ensuring her fetus was viable.  Apparently, someone at JPS realized that with this concession, an appeal would go absolutely nowhere.  Even if there was a justifiable reason to maintain life support on a dead person, it strains credulity to suggest that no other means was possible to keep that fetus safe.

To my mind, though, this will be a hollow gesture if the Munoz family has to pay for the costs of keeping Marlise on life support.  By conceding that it knew all along Marlise was legally dead, JPS has admitted that two months of medical treatment were completely unnecessary.  Making Erick pay for this would only add to the agony that Erick and Marlise's families (both sides of the family backed the quest to turn off life support) have had to endure.  

I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with Mark Geragos.  But on Friday's edition of Anderson Cooper 360, he said that Erick Munoz has grounds for one whopper of a civil suit against JPS for desecrating a corpse and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  He also said that all indications were the hospital was still planning to follow the normal billing process.  No hospital with even an iota of decency would collect on such a bill--especially after admitting in open court that the treatment was futile.  If I were Erick, the only way I would even consider not suing would be if he was assured he wouldn't have to pay a penny.  

We need to put the heat on this hospital to show some real decency.  Sign this petition to the hospital's president, Robert Earley, calling on JPS to not put any financial burden for this on the Munoz family.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Desecrating a corpse (22+ / 0-)

    Damn, that's exactly what they did. A dead body used as a prop for a religious crusade.

    Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

    by ontheleftcoast on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 11:53:55 AM PST

  •  Do you knows what's messed up? (7+ / 0-)

    That this petition is even necessary. But I'd put nothing past these people.

    Why do I have the feeling George W. Bush joined the Stonecutters, ate a mess of ribs, and used the Constitution as a napkin?

    by Matt Z on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 01:32:22 PM PST

  •  Thanks Christian Dem (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OldDragon, Calamity Jean

    I'm betting that the only thing the hospital and others supporting this farce worship more than 'life' is money. Like hell should they get a penny from Marlise's family for enslaving her corpse.

  •  Signed, tipped, and recommended. n/t (4+ / 0-)

    "There must be something beyond slaughter and barbarism to support the existence of mankind and we must all help search for it."

    by camlbacker on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 01:48:04 PM PST

  •  Like the hospital is going to care (0+ / 0-)

    If they can't be shamed into not charging $30,000 for treating a hangnail, they're not going to let this slide. They'll just hand the bill over to some sleazy soulless collection firm and wash their hands of it.

    Plus, as this is a county hospital that says they were following state law, a lawsuit has a hard row to hoe. Plantings will essentially be suing the entire state of Texas. I wish them luck, they're going to need it.  

    •  It won't be a fool's errand (4+ / 0-)

      We can still tie this debacle around JPS like an anchor.

      And a lawsuit probably won't be as difficult as it looks.  Not only did the hospital admit it knew Marlise was brain dead, but the judge who issued the order in Erick's favor was a Perry appointee.  If a conservative Republican appointed by Governor Goodhair realized that you can't give life support to a dead woman, that says something.

      •  A dead woman can still be pregnant (0+ / 0-)

        I don't think the issue will just vanish, because the law says life support will not be removed from a pregnant woman. The law is covering the life of the fetus, not the woman.

        If this woman had been 35 weeks pregnant instead of 14, no one would have argued she shouldn't have been put on life support while an emergency c-section was scheduled.  The issue here was fetal viability.

        Life support was removed because the fetus was shown to be damaged and abnormal. If that fetus had instead seemed normal, the woman would still be on life support, while being just as dead.

        Also, life support is given to dead bodies all the time while waiting for organ transplant.

        This is not simple at all, and I predict all future DNR orders are going to have to explicitly cover a non viable fetus. No hospital is going to just say "well, 22 weeks, not our problem, pull the plug". Doesn't work that way.

        •  It will take MASSIVE advances in technology (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ExpatGirl

          to get that kind of "emergency care" to the point where it's more than Powerball odds. Right now we don't have that ability - not even to turn a deceased woman into an axlotl tank with any real chance of success.

          There is a real, but horrid, possibility that the fetus was malformed from much earlier, and that the pregnancy going so wrong was what spawned the blood clot that killed Ms. Munoz.

          In that case, everything the hospital did for and to the fetus was an exercise in utter futility.

          If it's
          Not your body,
          Then it's
          Not your choice
          And it's
          None of your damn business!

          by TheOtherMaven on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 05:36:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree, but where's the line? (0+ / 0-)

            There is a lot of grey area that like it or not, has to be legally dealt with.  24 weeks is 50% survival rate. So for any woman who is pregnant, and who's every expressed wish was to have the baby, who became brain dead - you would agree to life support and a cesarian, correct?
            If abortion wasn't the woman's choice, her choice should be respected yes?

            Now the grey area is just before 24 weeks. What about a woman who is brain dead but 22 or 23 weeks?  That woman also intended to have her baby. In that case, should life support be given for one or two weeks, to give the fetus a better survival chance?  Or just pull the plug?

            Now what about 21, 20, 19...   The law doesn't say what to do in those cases. It's going to come down to judgement calls each and every time. A decision for the family and doctor, yes. But there's also a legal issue. Hospitals are going to want to be cautious.

            As I said, I think DNR orders really should include language on a pre-24 week fetus to avoid this issue in the future.

            •  It will also require changing badly written laws (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Calamity Jean

              so that they don't mandate axlotl tanks without consent.

              Texass has an especially badly written law because not one of the lawmakers bothered to ask, "What about brain death?" And once the situation they never bothered to think about came up, they started yelling, "But we didn't mean THIS!"

              So fix the law already, Texass Legislature. Or repeal it and replace it with a more clearly written one.

              There are 11 other states that need to take a good hard long look at their relevant laws, and probably fix or replace them.

              As long as the law can override a DNR in the case of pregnancy, a DNR isn't worth the paper it's written on.

              If it's
              Not your body,
              Then it's
              Not your choice
              And it's
              None of your damn business!

              by TheOtherMaven on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 08:27:51 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't understand the hostility (0+ / 0-)

                If a woman signed an organ donor card, would keeping the body on life support while waiting for organ donation constitute an overriding of a DNR?

                No, of corse not, it's a non sensical concept.

                So if a woman becomes pregnant, and doesn't choose abortion, wants the baby, and then becomes brain dead...

                Why does her body suddenly become an "axlotl tank", when that isn't the case for organ donations?  The baby that the woman said she wanted before she died is the organ being donated. Why the overt hostility to biology?

                My wife just had our baby, and for 9 months her body was an incubator, her body was subservient to that fetus. That's how life works, deal with it.
                 We tried for 7 years to get pregnant before it finally happened. Now if this tragedy had happened to us, I wouldn't be so quick to pull the plug, not given what we worked for.
                I don't want the hospital making final decisions, but I would want the hospital keeping the fetus alive until I made the call. DNR or not. Because for those 9 months, it wasn't just her body.

                Whatever changes are made to the law should reflect that.

                •  Why don't you read some background on this case (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  OldDragon

                  before projecting and injecting your own feelings into it? Frankly, your feelings and your decisions have, and should have, no bearing on anyone else's.

                  Both Ms. Munoz and her husband Erick were EMTs. They were thoroughly familiar with what resuscitation efforts really involve, what the odds of "success" really are, and what the real consequences can be. They were in total agreement that they wanted no "heroic measures" and no grotesque imitation of "life" maintained artificially by machines and tubes.

                  Then he found her anoxic, cyanotic, not breathing - and there were indications that she had been in that condition for perhaps an hour, perhaps longer.

                  At this point the reports get muddled, whether he, or anyone else, attempted CPR, or whether they were "successful". She wound up at the hospital, pronounced brain-dead (which, effectively, means pronounced DEAD) - and because she was about 14 weeks pregnant, all her and her husband's clearly expressed wishes and directives went into the trash.

                  14 weeks is at least ten weeks short of the break-even point for "viability" - where the odds of survival are about 50-50. (They drop HARD and FAST with each day before then - a 22-week fetus has maybe one chance in a hundred, IF it is normal).

                  Because of the sloppy and stupid way the Texass law was written, the hospital took it upon themselves to force "heroic treatment" on this dead woman in the slim hope of maintaining her body in a pseudo-living state for at least ten to twelve weeks, or until the condition of the fetus could be assessed.

                  The fetus had certainly been negatively affected by oxygen deprivation for an unknown period - perhaps an hour or more. The odds of it surviving at all were not good, and the odds of it being healthy and undamaged were...negligible at best.

                  Despite protests and lawsuits from the husband and other family members, the deteriorating, decaying corpse was artificially maintained - and when the condition of the fetus was finally assessed, it was grim. Hydrocephalus, gross deformity of the lower body to the point that gender could not be determined, possibly heart defect(s), and possibly other problems not detected.

                  At that point it was clear that the hospital was not going to get the miracle it was trying for, and was not going to get a "wedge issue" that could be used to force legal recognition of "fetal personhood" (and the consequent legal enslavement of all pregnant or potentially pregnant women).

                  But they still continued the grotesque farce until the judge told them to get real and do what they should have done in the first place: turn off the machines.

                  The more you read about this case, the squickier it gets. Hope you have a strong stomach.

                  If it's
                  Not your body,
                  Then it's
                  Not your choice
                  And it's
                  None of your damn business!

                  by TheOtherMaven on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 10:22:01 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I've read all the background on the case. (0+ / 0-)

                    All I'm saying is that I don't fault the hospital for initially ignoring the DNR and for putting the woman on life support at the very beginning. Because no one can go back in time, and do no harm is the oath they take. I would want the chance to at least evaluate my options for a day before pulling the plug.

                    You said earlier that the hospital erred in hooking up life support in the first place. I disagree and I don't see the law ever agreeing to that either. Yes, 14 weeks is too early to reach viability. But when a woman comes into the ER, there's no time. Life support first, questions later.

                    What I fault the hospital for is then ignoring the family's wishes and forcing the 10 week ordeal. That's where the law must change.

                    But I'm not going to complain about the very initial application of life support, while the situation could be calmly evaluated.

                    You're the one who sounds like you're injecting your values into this. With "grotesque imitation of life". Because that applies to every body before organ transplant. Should we stop saving lives with organ donation because you think it's grotesque?

                    Direct your hostility to the hospital refusing to remove life support on day 2, not at want they did on Day 1.

                    •  There's a basic flaw in your assumptions, (0+ / 0-)

                      and it is this: that a woman is just an actual or potential vehicle for producing a baby.

                      That's what all your yap-yap about the "right" of the hospital to override a clearly expressed DNR amounts to. Had Ms. Munoz not been pregnant, there would have been no machines, and she would have been pronounced dead and released to her family then and there.

                      "Life support" is an absolute misnomer when there is no life there to support. Brain-dead means DEAD. DEAD, DEAD, DEAD. Some people can't wrap their heads around that, because they don't know, or aren't capable of understanding, the differences among "coma", "persistent vegetative state", and "brain dead". And some people believe in miracles, and a few think they can be forced on demand.

                      It's not too wild a guess that someone at that hospital thought they could force a miracle and produce a healthy live baby out of a dead woman. Maybe that was an acute case of "playing God", or maybe there was an ulterior motive - forcing the issue of "fetal personhood" with everything that implies (and one thing it implies is the stripping of rights from actual born women in favor of something that is not yet born and may not ever be).

                      This whole revolting incident throws into sharp relief the fact that women are not yet regarded as equal to men, and that our hard-won rights remain partial, conditional, and at the mercy (or lack thereof) of anyone with an agenda.

                      If it's
                      Not your body,
                      Then it's
                      Not your choice
                      And it's
                      None of your damn business!

                      by TheOtherMaven on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 08:20:00 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  You really have to accept basic biology (0+ / 0-)

                        Yes, while pregnant a woman's body absolutely is a vehicle for producing a baby.  Did you fail 9th grade biology or something?  Yes, there is a biological distinction between pregnant, and not pregnant.  Pregnant women are treated differently than not-pregnant women, for a valid biological reason.  And a pregnant woman and man are not biologically equal.  It's a factor that cannot be ignored.

                        Before my wife was pregnant, my wife was free to do with her body as she wished, drink and smoke.  Now that our son is born, she can drink and smoke again.  But for 9 months, she didn't get to drink and smoke. She couldn't eat sushi like she wanted.  She couldn't do a lot of things she wanted to do.  But that was the choice she made, just like Ms. Munoz.  That's life, and pretending for the sake of ideology it isn't so doesn't get you anywhere.

                        Ms. Munoz didn't choose an abortion, as was her right.  She chose to be pregnant.  It was her choice that her body be an actual vehicle for a baby for 9 months.

                        So at minute 1 in the ER, that is the starting position.  A pregnant woman who chose to be pregnant, was happy about being pregnant, who just prior to collapsing, had every intention of bringing that baby to term.
                        If you're going to have a discussion about the rights of a woman, you start with the choices that woman made.

                        Next, Ms. Munoz didn't have a written DNR, so no, her wishes were not clearly expressed, not legally.  Absent a written DNR, I expect a hospital to err on the side of caution until they have all the facts laid out.  That means putting a brain dead woman on a respirator at minute 1.

                        At minute 1, DEAD, DEAD, DEAD, only applied to Ms. Munoz, not yet the fetus.  If the fetus had been 24 weeks, they would have attempted the "miracle" of pulling a live baby out of a dead woman.  It's been done before.  It's much more science than miracle at this point.

                        I'll say it again.  Given the lack of a written DNR, I'm not going to fault any hospital for putting a brain dead pregnant woman on life support at minute 1.  The revolting incident began on day 2 when the hospital refused to respect the family wishes after non-viability had been firmly determined.  But Ms. Munoz was DEAD DEAD DEAD and no harm came to her from putting her body on a respirator for 24 hours.

                        After that first 24 hours, I agree with you.

                        •  You. are. MANSPLAINING. N/T (0+ / 0-)

                          If it's
                          Not your body,
                          Then it's
                          Not your choice
                          And it's
                          None of your damn business!

                          by TheOtherMaven on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 11:34:26 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  And you are ignoring science (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm going to treat you like an irrational religious whack job, because that's how you're behaving.  I was trying to have a serious discussion on legality, which by nature must be scientific, logical and unemotional.  But I guess that's just being a man.  Have it your way, don't be taken seriously.

                            The tough issues don't just go away because you stick your head in the sand.

                          •  Since no civil response is possible to this crap, (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm just going to ignore it - and you.

                            Oink oink.

                            If it's
                            Not your body,
                            Then it's
                            Not your choice
                            And it's
                            None of your damn business!

                            by TheOtherMaven on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 11:54:34 AM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  What a sexist response (0+ / 0-)

                            I expected better, and I really did expect you to take this seriously.

                            Fine, have it your way.  I will from now on, treat every woman, pregnant or not, as if she is not pregnant.  Because to do otherwise is to treat her only as an incubator.  That's the only way to treat every woman as equal to men.  And if a woman gets upset about not being treated special while pregnant, that'll be her problem for not respecting equality.

                            Thanks for the enlightenment.

                      •  Something else to think about. (0+ / 0-)

                        This has direct bearing on the lack of a written DNR, on a brain dead woman's wishes being expressed through hearsay testimony by her husband.  I'm going to give you a scenario.

                        A woman is 24 weeks pregnant.  Her husband isn't happy about it, wasn't ready for it, wishes she wasn't pregnant.  

                        The woman tells her husband in the event of a medical emergency, she wants all life saving treatment. Wants every effort made to save the life of her fetus.  That is her decision, that is the CHOICE that she made.  But nothing is written down, there is no legal document.

                        The husband decides he can't support a baby, and in a moment of panic, he pushes his wife down the stairs, tells the EMTs she slipped.

                        The woman slips in to a coma, is declared brain dead.  The husband tells the hospital that his wife clearly expressed to him her DNR wishes, that no life saving treatment be given.  He doesn't want the hospital to attempt a C-section, he wants the hospital to let the woman and fetus die.

                        Absent a written DNR, what do you want the hospital to do?

                        •  Stop with the fictional scenarios RIGHT NOW. (0+ / 0-)

                          Or you are just as bad as the wingnuts who make up bullshit to "justify" oppressing, suppressing, repressing, denigrating and dismissing women.

                          We will NEVER see eye to eye on this for one basic biological reason: you are a man, and you will NEVER have your rights violated because of a "potential life" that might, or might not, someday be growing inside you.

                          If it's
                          Not your body,
                          Then it's
                          Not your choice
                          And it's
                          None of your damn business!

                          by TheOtherMaven on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 11:38:44 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

        •  My understanding is that the author of the law (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Norm in Chicago

          itself has said that the hospital misapplied it. It was NEVER intended to turn dead women into incubators in such a way. And the judge agreed.

          From NPR

          Legal experts interviewed by The Associated Press said the hospital was misreading the Texas Advance Directives Act and that the law doesn't have an absolute command to keep someone like Munoz on life support.

          "This patient is neither terminally nor irreversibly ill," said Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the office of clinical ethics and palliative care for Baylor Health Care System, in an interview earlier this month. "Under Texas law, this patient is legally dead."

  •  Simply stiff 'em (0+ / 0-)

    They ought to stiff the hospital.  That's what I did when a different hospital pulled a similar trick with my dad.  Good luck getting any money from us; we told you he was already dead.  

    Never underestimate the power of Human Stupidity.

    by Orla on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 02:07:15 PM PST

  •  Whatever they did to her corpse... (4+ / 0-)

    ...it was not "life support." I wish the media would stop referring to it that way.

    "They are an entire cruise ship of evil clowns, these current Republicans"...concernedamerican

    by Giles Goat Boy on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 02:32:10 PM PST

    •  Media = lazy and ignorant (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OldDragon, a2nite

      They use shorthand and code that conveys almost but not quite the right meaning, because it's too much trouble to educate themselves and explain clearly.

      It's too much trouble to write "artificial ventilation" and explain what that means, and what else is involved (besides, they don't want to squick out their readers). So they do the lazy thing.

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 02:43:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Signed, etc. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

    C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre.

    by RunawayRose on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 10:07:14 PM PST

  •  "Desecrating a corpse?" That's trash-talk (0+ / 0-)

    "Intentional infliction of mental distress," likewise.

    And there is no way Munoz is going to pay a dime for his wife's care.

    JPS is a governmental instrumentality, maybe they can recoup what they've lost upholding White-Bread Christian notions of life and death from the White-Bread Christian trash at the Texas Legislature.

    Their real God is money-- Jesus just drives the armored car, and his hat is made in China. © 2009 All Rights Reserved

    by oblomov on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 12:31:41 PM PST

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