A lawsuit in Texas may help clarify a controversial statute in that state
that bans medical providers from withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining
treatment for pregnant patients. The law, which is similar to statutes
in many other states, is designed to keep the fetus alive even in cases
where the mother clearly will not survive, or where the mother has a living
will stating that she does not want certain life-support procedures performed on her.
Back in November, a Texas man
found his 14-weeks pregnant wife unconscious on the kitchen floor. She was taken to the local public hospital, where
doctors declared her to be brain-dead. According to the husband, he was
also told that the fetus may have been deprived of oxygen. The wife was
then put on a respirator, ventilator, and other machines, which the hospital
justified by referencing the state statute.
Hospital May Be Misinterpreting Law
The law in Texas and many other states prevents hospitals from taking pregnant
patients off life support, or from declining to put them on life support
in the first place. The law itself is controversial, as it appears to
put the life of an unborn fetus ahead of that of the mother and the wishes
of her and her family. But putting aside the questions about the wisdom
of the statute, there is another issue: namely, whether the statute should
even apply in this case.
While the hospital has not publicly declared the wife to be dead, one of
their charts does state that she is “brain dead.” And her
husband claims that the doctors told him his wife had lost all activity
in her brain stem. If the wife is legally dead, she is no longer the hospital’s
“patient,” and therefore the statute in question would not
apply to her. The hospital has told the husband it wants to keep his wife
on life support at least until February, and then evaluate the viability
of the fetus.
Lawsuit Would Force Hospital to Take Wife off Life Support
The husband has filed both an emergency motion and a civil complaint against
the hospital. Both actions ask the court to require the hospital to remove
the wife from the life-support machines. He claims that she told him she
would not want “life-sustaining” measures to be taken if she
were brain dead, and that her wishes should not be ignored simply because
she was pregnant. The hospital claims it is simply trying to follow the
law, and that it will rely on the courts to sort things out. Legal experts
point out the ambiguity in the statute, and assert that a lawsuit of this
sort may actually be necessary to get some clarity.
What to Do if You Have Been Victimized by a Hospital
If you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, or have
had your rights violated by a medical provider, you should contact a personal
injury attorney immediately. An attorney can review the facts of your
case and determine whether you have a viable claim. If so, they can help
you seek the compensation you deserve.