Hospital threatens to starve patient to death

IMG_0013A hospital in Jacksonville, Florida has threatened to withdraw food and water from a patient who recently suffered a gunshot wound. Joel Zuniga was unable to breathe without the assistance of a ventilator after being shot. Two weeks after Joel’s injury, his family made the difficult decision to remove his ventilator to see if he could breathe on his own.

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.

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 only speak Spanish—to sign a form that would only give Joel “comfort” care 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 projected “quality-of-life” is the reason his physician has decided to withhold all food from this patient. Happily, Alex, his brother recorded this conversation of 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

“This is one of the most egregious cases of denial of health care I have seen,” said Alexandra Snyder, Life Legal Defense Foundation’s Executive Director. “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.”

Author: Life Legal

The Life Legal Defense Foundation is a non-profit law firm that specializes in the defense of vulnerable human life, especially life in the womb.

18 thoughts

  1. God gave this young man a second chance at life. God gives us life in the womb and decided our last days. It’s shows that Joel’s life is not up. He will be disabled but than again my husband and I are also. What does that mean? All life is worth something.


  2. This is horrible, but smacks of sensationalism. I think there must be more to this story. The article left out some info needed to bridge the facts. Also, now that the patient is stable, why hasn’t he been moved to Brooks Rehab, where they specialize in long-term recovery from debilitating injuries in stable patients. Most hospitals need the bed and want the patient out of there once there is nothing more the hospital can do for him medically, and Brooks is the next step in a case like this.


    1. Initially, the hospital would not facilitate a transfer to another hospital. It looks like they may have reversed their position, and I will post an update as soon as we know for certain.


  3. Seems like there are details about this person’s situation that have been intentionally omitted from this simplistic report. For example, how extensive are the neurological injuries? Do the injuries make it impossible for this young man to be fed through a nasogastric or PEG tube? IV feeding won’t keep him alive indefinitely, but it can be used on a short-term basis. So, what is the rationale presented to the family about why this option is not available to this person. Intentionally killing a human being is never a solution to a problem, but that is quite different than allowing a natural death to occur.


    1. The “rationale” for denying nutrition was that Joel would not have sufficient “quality of life.” His injuries do not preclude him from being able to be fed through a feeding tube.


  4. Yes Memorial. Hospital as well as specialty seem to jump the gun My mother died while at speciaty because they wouldnt move her back to memorial for proper treatment knowing she had an infection this was also in Jacksonville florida


  5. My 78 year old brother entered a Ca. Nursing Home after my Mother passed away. His physical health was good, only fungal toenails. No oral cavities. Mild mental retardation since birth, cerebral palsy. Never worked, never married. Was raised by my mother. At first, he enjoyed all of the activities. Then at his team conference, the dietitian said he was aspirating on his fluids,that they wanted to try a thickener. My brother would never pour a glass of water there, for fear of spilling it and upsetting the staff. I told the team that the staff would have to pour it for him. They agreed. ( he would drink it ok by himself). Awhile later I received a call that he had an U.T.I. and they sent him to the Hospital. He came home with an indueling catheter. Approx. a week went by when I was there visiting, a staff member changed the bag in view so I would notice the color of his urine!!!!! It was WHITE and THICK! I worked in a hospital, and know the color of THICKNER, it’s white. If the nurses aides or other staff do not know the ratio of ‘thickner’ to fluid, it can get pastey. They were hand feeding him his meals. I got a call in the middle of the night that they transferred him back to the hospital for possible kidney failure. After my sister and I buried our mother barely a year ago, and were left with the grief and now loosing our brother, the hospital told us he is dying and needed to go back to the nursing home under ‘Hospic’ care. Not understanding the term, we were told that basically the staff would not offer him food nor water unless he asked for it. They assured us this was an easy way for all, is to allow him to ask for food or drink. Needless to say, my sister and I signed the papers, not realizing this was the END. They called me and I called my sister, that he had passed. Today I feel that my sister and I signed his death warrant. I believe the untrained and, barely understanding English, staff, and the Dietician killed him with THICKNER. He was in excellent health except needed P.T. for walking and excercise when he got there, they killed him in just a little over a year. And my sister and I are guilty by signing his life away. After all, all he had to do is push the button ( usually found on the floor) and say I want some food and drink please. Would they practice an intake and output on someone with a UTI?


    1. I am so sorry to hear about your brother. One of the reasons we post articles about our cases is so people are aware of their options and are equipped to ask questions about their loved ones’ care. You and your sister did not play a part in his death, as you did not know what “hospice” care or “comfort” care entailed in this situation. God bless you.


  6. Memorial Hospital is the worst hospital in Jacksonville. They constantly misdiagnose patients as well as ignore emergency patients for hours even when they are not busy. I would go to a vet hospital before I went to memorial. They are a joke full of quack doctors and an unresponsive staff


  7. They need to file attempted murder charges on the medical staff and pull their state licenses to practice medicine, doctors and nurses that participate. What happen to the Doctors Hippocratic oath they took, not the hypocrite oath. I guess it is ok to murder someone in the hospital, I bet they over dose the patient with meds. Thats ultimately discusting to try and take someone life. I just hope that one day this happens to those that are participating, in this attempted murder.


  8. Praying for Joel! This breaks my heart…this poor family. I have been sharing this with anybody and everybody I can think of to not only pray but to bring awareness. News stations, churches, people on my fb too. This reminds me of Terri Schiavo all over again.
    God Bless You Joel and all of your family!! Keep fighting!


  9. Shand Jax did this same thing to my grandmother about 12 years ago because of a stroke. We fought them tooth and nail. She is still alive today because we fought with them. Keep fighting!


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