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Texas judge orders pregnant, brain-dead woman off life support

By Nomaan Merchant

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:47 p.m. HST, Jan 24, 2014

FORT WORTH, Texas » A judge today ordered a Texas hospital to remove life support for a pregnant, brain-dead woman.

Judge R. H. Wallace Jr. issued the ruling in the case of Marlise Munoz. John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth has been keeping Munoz on life support against her family's wishes. The judge gave the hospital until 5 p.m. CST Monday to remove life support.

Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when her husband found her unconscious Nov. 26, possibly due to a blood clot.

Erick Munoz says he and his wife are paramedics who were clear that they didn't want life support in this type of situation. His attorney argued that keeping the woman alive would set a dangerous precedent for future cases of pregnant, brain-dead women.

But John Peter Smith Hospital had argued that it had to protect the life of the unborn child.

Hospital officials have said they were bound by a state law prohibiting withdrawal of treatment from a pregnant patient. Several experts interviewed by The Associated Press have said the hospital is misapplying the law.

The case has raised questions about end-of-life care and whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus. It also has gripped attention on both sides of the abortion debate, with anti-abortion groups arguing Munoz's fetus deserves a chance to be born.

Earlier this week, Erick Munoz's attorneys said that the fetus, now believed to be at about 22 weeks' gestation, is "distinctly abnormal." They attorneys said they based that statement on medical records they received from the hospital.

The Tarrant County District Attorney's Office, which is representing the hospital in the lawsuit, said the hospital was expected to issue a statement later today in response to the ruling.

Not much is known about fetal survival when mothers suffer brain death during pregnancy. German doctors who searched for such cases found 30 of them in nearly 30 years, according to an article published in the journal BMC Medicine in 2010.

Those mothers were further along in pregnancy — 22 weeks on average — when brain death occurred than in the Texas case. Birth results were available for 19 cases. In 12, a viable child was born. Follow-up results were available for six, all of whom developed normally.

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ryan02 wrote:
I think it's disgusting that the state of Texas believes it can use a dead person's body parts against that person's wishes. What next? Can I claim her kidneys against her wishes, if I need them to stay alive? How about taking her eyeballs against her wishes to help a blind person. I'm sure Texas can find a way to justify that too. Seems to me that using a person's body against their will is some kind of constitutional violation. I hope the family wins whatever lawsuits they file, although the real culprit here is the state of Texas rather than the hospital itself (the hospital is just stuck, having to follow what looks like an unconstitutional law).
on January 24,2014 | 09:59AM
Maybe I missed an earlier article on this subject, but I am confused-where are they discussing using body parts. The entire story says nothing to that regard. Are you reading the same story I am reading, or are you just interjecting your feelings on body parts.
on January 24,2014 | 11:42AM
jess wrote:
Why the hospital is forcing this family to suffer even more is beyond me. Let this family have its wishes and be done with it. Reproductive rights in Texas are scary but this goes way beyond that and is clearly a violation of medical ethics.
on January 24,2014 | 10:00AM
eoe wrote:
This is all part of the plan - define "personhood" to the point of conception.
on January 24,2014 | 11:43AM
jess wrote:
The Republican war against women is scary, they don't want you to have birth control but don't you dare abort an unwanted pregnancy. The lack of access to women's health care in red states has greatly diminished and will lead to more unsafe, underground clinics like Dr. Gosnells' heinous operation in PA. Side note: I can't believe Mike Huckabee had the nerve to say that free birth control was because women can't control their libido. I almost threw something through the TV when I heard that! It'e refreshing to see another intelligent progressive on the SA comments!
on January 24,2014 | 01:12PM
808surfmom wrote:
My heart breaks for her family. It is yet another reminder that we all need to sign a health directive. They are free in each state. Just search online for Hawaii Health Directive Form and print it.
on January 24,2014 | 10:41AM
eoe wrote:
Regardless of directive, the family would be having this problem. This is the danger of living in a republican state. They say they are all about freedom and liberty but in reality once they are in control its tyranny, coercion and oppression. This is truly sick - using a dead person's body as an incubator against the family's wishes to make some political point. "Ooh, look at us every life is so precious, poor unborn baby." Of course we are now hearing the baby has severe problems (big surprise), and we know what the next step is: downhill as the child will be born in a republican state and they only care as long as you are fetus but once you are born, no food stamps, insurance, or state support because you are now a "socialist moocher."
on January 24,2014 | 11:40AM
jess wrote:
She had a directive. The hospital ignored it because she was pregnant. I hope the family sues the crap out of the hospital.
on January 24,2014 | 12:12PM
rayhawaii wrote:
Take the mother off of life support and let her live her life with her newborn baby in heaven. I am sure she would want that.
on January 24,2014 | 11:57AM
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