Judge Orders Pregnant Texas Woman Taken Off Life Support
A judge has ordered John Peter Smith Hospital to take a brain-dead, pregnant Texas woman off life support. The case of Marlise Munoz, who is 22 weeks pregnant and brain-dead, went before a North Texas judge on Friday. The woman is being kept on life-support against the wishes of her husband, Erick, due to a state law that says the plug can't be pulled because of the fetus. As NBC reports:
A Texas hospital acknowledged Friday that the baby being carried by Marlise Munoz, who is a brain-dead woman, isn't viable — a major development in her husband's court battle to force the hospital to take her off life support.
Tarrant County District Judge R.H. Wallace gave John Peter Smith Hospital of Fort Worth until 6 p.m. ET Monday to disconnect Munoz, 33, from her ventilator, as her husband, Erick, has demanded since November.
The concession by attorneys for John Peter Smith Hospital of Fort Worth came in a joint affidavit stipulating the facts of the case filed shortly before a hearing in a lawsuit brought by Munoz's husband, Erick.
The affidavit stipulates that "at the time of this hearing, the fetus gestating inside Mrs. Munoz is not viable" — which Erick Munoz has been arguing for weeks.
Doctors have been keeping Munoz on ventilators and respirators after her husband discovered her lying on their kitchen floor, attributing the collapse to a possible pulmonary embolism. She was 14 weeks pregnant.
Her family says she's brain-dead, and Erick insists she never wanted to be kept alive in such a state. As Bustle reported:
Erick, along with Marlise’s parents, argues that her condition renders her legally dead. He’s also pointed out that he and his wife, who worked as paramedics, had discussed life support, and Marlise opposed the idea of being kept alive via machine. The couple have a one-year-old son.
Hospital officials argued that their hands were tied by the state law protecting the unborn child. The Texas Advance Directives Act explains, "A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient."
The case raised several questions: To what extent can the government control an individual's end-of life care? How does a fetus affect these decisions? What elements help constitute whether a person is dead or alive? Critics have weighed in on the issue, with heavy support on both sides of the debate.
On Wednesday, attorneys for the family released a statement saying the fetus is "distinctly abnormal," with its lower extremities deformed, a possible heart problem, and water on its brain (hydrocephalus). The causes are said to be related to oxygen deprivation when Marlise first collapsed.
"Over these past two months, nothing about my wife indicates she is alive," her husband said. "... What sits in front of me is a deteriorating body."