Hospital Threatens to Withdraw Patient’s Food and Water, Removes Ventilator Over Family’s Objections

State   |   Alexandra Snyder   |   Feb 19, 2018   |   6:07PM   |   Jacksonville, FL

A hospital in Jacksonville, Florida has threatened to withdraw food and water from a 33-year-old patient who recently suffered a gunshot wound. Joel Zuniga was unable to breathe on his own after being shot. Only two weeks after his injury, the hospital unilaterally determined to remove Joel’s ventilator, over the objections of his family.

Fr. David Nix, the family’s priest and a former EMT and paramedic, encouraged the family to instruct the hospital not to give Joel a heavy dose of narcotics when doctors removed the ventilator, so as not to suppress his ability to breathe. The hospital begrudgingly complied.

Fr. Nix was present to administer last rites. Joel struggled to breathe for a few minutes and then, miraculously, began taking full breaths! He has now been off of artificial respiration for two days and his vital signs are good.

Although Joel has suffered brain damage and is unable to speak, he is awake and is starting to show some response when his family talks to him.

Joel survived a gunshot wound to the head. He survived being taken off of a ventilator. Now the hospital is refusing to provide Joel with proper nutrition and hydration.

The family finally convinced doctors to give Joel an IV, but they still refuse to adequately feed Joel. Health care providers have also tried to pressure Joel’s parents—who speak only Spanish—to sign a form that would only give Joel “comfort” care and nothing more in an attempt to withdraw all treatment, including food, water, and antibiotics.

“Joel is 33 years old and he was shot in the head. He survived the gunshot and was on a ventilator at Memorial Hospital for two weeks. When he was taken off the ventilator, he immediately began breathing on his own. Joel is even able to make eye contact and he understands us. Joel’s physician has decided to withhold all food from this patient because of Joel’s projected “quality-of-life.” Alex, his brother recorded a conversation of the doctor refusing to provide treatment for Joel. This is clear euthanasia. The staff at Memorial Hospital is starving him to death and we are so thankful that Legal Defense Foundation is willing to fight for Joel’s life.” —FrDave Nix

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This is one of the most egregious cases of denial of health care I have ever seen. Joel’s parents are particularly vulnerable because they do not speak English. The hospital is exploiting their inability to question a course of action that puts Joel’s life at risk. Joel is a young man in his early thirties who is showing remarkable signs of recovery, yet the hospital is taking aggressive measures to shorten his life.

Life Legal attorneys continue to work to restore Joel’s nutrition as I write this.

LifeNews Note: Alexandra Snyder is the executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation.