Sun, Feb 27, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Heart attack patient dies as Jackson is treated for flu; family is suing hospital

AFP , SANTA MARIA, CALIFORNIA

A heart-attack patient died after she was moved from a hospital emergency room to make way for a flu-stricken Michael Jackson, the dead woman's family alleged on Friday.

Relatives of 74-year-old grandmother Manuela Gomez Ruiz told ABC television they had hired a lawyer to sue the already-embattled pop icon and the Marian Medical Center in the California town of Santa Maria.

Jackson, 46, was rushed to the hospital's emergency room on Feb. 15 when he began vomiting in his car on his way to the courtroom where his child molestation trial is underway.

The family of Ruiz, who has been taken to the hospital after suffering cardiac arrest, said that she was removed from a ventilator and taken to a smaller room when Jackson arrived to give the star more space.

While she was being moved, her breathing was assisted by a hand pump, her family told ABC News.

"Why does she have to be moved if he's coming in for a stomach flu?" asked Maria Elena Ortiz, the ailing woman's daughter.

"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," she said.

Jackson was admitted to the hospital where he spent 33 hours before being dicharged to recover pending the resumption of jury selection in his trial that was dramatically interrupted by his illness.

The dead woman's daughter, Amandina Aguillar, said she believed that Jackson's presence in the hospital affected the care of her mother.

"They paid more attention to him than they did to my mom," she said.

The hospital denied the allegations, saying in a statement that all its patients were treated equally.

"Our patients have and continue to receive high quality, compassionate and timely care," the statement said.

Jackson's spokeswoman Raymone Bain said that while Jackson was sorry Ruiz had died, he was not responsible for what happened.

"Michael Jackson sends his condolences to the family of the deceased," she said in a statement.

"However, it is outrageous that Michael Jackson's name would be invoked into a situation of which he had no authority or control. It appears that ABC is deliberate in its attempt to circumvent Michael Jackson from receiving a fair trial."

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