Erick and Marlise Munoz

Marlise Munoz's family may be forced to pay more than $300,000 in medical bills

Munoz's body was kept on a respirator and other machines for 62 days, an intervention that cost upward of $300,000


Katie McDonough
February 6, 2014 7:20PM (UTC)

It has been nearly two weeks since Marlise Munoz was removed from a respirator and other machines in compliance with her end-of-life directive and her family's wishes, but questions still linger about who will be responsible for the cost of the forced mechanical intervention.

Munoz died on Nov. 28, but because of a Texas statute excluding pregnant patients from the right to make end-of-life decisions, her body was kept on mechanical support for two months to sustain her fetus. A Texas judge last month ordered John Peter Smith Hospital to comply with Munoz's family's wishes, finding that the hospital had misapplied the statute because Munoz ceased being a patient at the time of her death, which was two days after being admitted into the hospital.

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But now that the legal battle to bury Munoz with dignity has been won, the fight over the cost of the forced intervention may just be getting underway.

"To force Eric Munoz into bankruptcy over an act that was clearly inappropriate and wrong and should have never happened is completely and totally unfair," Heather King, one of the family's lawyers, told KVUE.

While the cost of the intervention was not disclosed by the hospital, the daily cost is estimated at around $5,000. Munoz's body was kept in the hospital for a total of 62 days, at a cost of well over $300,000.

If the hospital does not charge Erick Munoz for the forced intervention, it's possible that Tarrant County residents may cover the expense because the hospital is publicly funded and owned by the county.

The hospital has refused to comment. More to come as the story develops.


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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