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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 unconsciouson 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.

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