Yesterday, a Fort Worth judge ordered that Marlise Munoz be removed from the life support machines to which she has been connected since collapsing in November. She had been plugged up to them despite requests by her family to honor her wish not to be kept alive artificially because she was pregnant. Officials at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth claimed Texas law did not allow them to remove life support from Marlise until it could be known that her baby could survive. But yesterday, the hospital effectively undercut that claim when it agreed with attorneys for Marlise's husband, Erick, that Marlise had been brain dead since November 28. Erick had argued that when JPS cited that law in denying the family's request, it missed another section that states a brain-dead person is legally dead.
JPS' concession that she is legally dead undercuts any basis for an appeal. Unless the hospital can justify why it maintained life support on a dead person, the velocity with which that appeal will be tossed out should create quite the breeze. But if JPS decides to forgo the appeal, it will be an empty gesture unless JPS defrays the Munoz family's medical costs.
To my mind, by conceding that it knew all along Marlise was legally dead, JPS has admitted that two months of medical treatment were completely unnecessary. No hospital with even an iota of decency would collect on such a bill. It 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. Then again, it's hard to put anything past a hospital that kept this up for this long.
I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with Mark Geragos, but he said on CNN last night that Erick has grounds for one whopper of a lawsuit for desecration of a corpse and intentional infliction of emotional distress. If I'm Erick, the only way I'd even consider not suing would be if the hospital eats the bill.