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Federal Immigration Detainee Taken Off Life Support Without Family's Consent

by John E. Dannenberg

A 69 year-old Mexican national, who suffered a heart attack at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Los Angeles and was put on life support at White Memorial Medical Center, was taken off life support three days later without noti¬fication to or consent of his nearby family.

Prison offcials were aware of Moises A. Murillo’s preexisting heart condition, having placed him on daily medication for a clot near his heart in July. He fell off his bunk in August and broke three ribs. On Friday, October 22, 2004, guards found Murillo on the floor. When he was taken to the hospital, doctors declared him brain dead and put him on life support. MDC didn’t notify Murillo’s family “because it was late Friday by then, and over the weekend they didn’t have time to get the family notified,” according to U.S. Marshals spokesman Jimmel Griffin. “We only deal with emergencies as far as after hours stuff,” he added. Griffin further stated that MDC didn’t have Catalina Hernandez' (Murillo’s wife) phone number, but later found it in the visiting log. Hernandez had visited Murillo dozens of times since his incarceration in July, and had been looking for him at MDC since that Sunday. “She was told he wasn’t there,” said Murillo’s 31 year-old daughter, Ruby. “The guard gave her a phone number to call ... and it just rang and rang.” On Monday morning, Ruby called her father’s federal public defender, but he knew nothing.

Officials at White Memorial said hospital policy permits doctors to unilater¬ally remove life support for patients with no hope of recovery if family cannot be located. Doctors at White Memorial had consulted with U.S. Marshals on Monday before removing Murillo from life sup¬port. Unlike the case of Terry Schiavo, where the congress and president George Bush declared the sanctity of human life, Murillo was promptly disconnected from life support three days after lapsing into a coma. Murillo’s case has not become a cause celebre among those who purport to support a “right to life.”

Murillo had lived in the United States since 1958, working as a farm worker until his deportation in 1986. Following his illegal reentry, he had worked for 20 years at car washes. The incident was particularly disturbing since he was only facing an immigration violation. Murillo’s family was outraged. Hernandez was not called and told of her husband’s condition until a few hours after he was declared dead.

Source: Los Angeles Times.

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