Did Michael Jackson's recent overnight stay at a hospital contribute to another patient's death? Her family says yes, and told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday that they blame the hospital for moving an elderly patient being treated for a heart attack to accommodate the singer, since she had two more heart attacks and then died. They plan on suing Jackson and the hospital.
Jackson was admitted to the Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria, California, on February 15 for "flulike symptoms and some vomiting," according to his attending physician, Dr. Chuck Merrill (see "Michael Jackson, Suffering From Flu, Rushed To Hospital"). Family members had been told that 74-year-old Manuela Gomez Ruiz's heart was functioning at 30 percent and other organs were failing. But, they say, she was then taken off the machine ventilator, with her breathing assisted manually by a hand pump, so that Jackson could have her larger trauma room, while she was relocated to a smaller room.
"Why does she have to be moved if he's coming in for a stomach flu?" Ruiz's daughter Maria Elena Ortiz, who was in the room, told "Good Morning America." "I said, 'My mother just had a heart attack, and I think it's more critical than a stomach flu.' They didn't say anything."
Because of Jackson's arrival, Ruiz's family says, they weren't allowed to come and go as freely while visiting her. Only two visitors were allowed in her room at a time, and once they were in the room, they could not leave and let others in. They say his presence also meant they couldn't be with Ruiz as she died. "This was the last time we might be able to talk with our grandma," grandson Marcos Meraz told the program. "They took that from us. They shouldn't have treated us any different. Close the door, keep him in the room, let us spend time with our grandma. We weren't there for him. We were there for my grandma."
Marian Medical Center issued a statement expressing its condolences to the Ruiz family. Noting that patient confidentiality forbids commenting on the specifics of individual patients' care, the hospital said that it is "confident ... that our patients have and continue to receive high-quality, compassionate and timely care."
Jackson sent his condolences to the Ruiz family as well, via a statement released by his publicist, Raymone Bain, who also called it "outrageous" that the singer would be blamed, since "he was a patient himself ... he had no authority or control."
Opening arguments in the Jackson child-molestation trial begin Monday.
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."