Brain Dead Pregnant Woman Ordered Off Life Support

The tragic case of Marlise Muñoz, the brain-dead Texas woman who’s been on life support against her wishes since November, is nearing an end. On Friday, federal judge ordered that the John Peter Smith Hospital disconnect Muñoz from life support by 5:00 pm local time Monday. Muñoz suffered a pulmonary embolism in November while 14 weeks pregnant, and was subsequently pronounced legally dead. Muñoz had previously said that she never wanted to be kept on life support, and her husband and parents agreed, but the hospital has been refusing to disconnect her. As Bustle reported:

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 Twitter, the reaction was predictably divided. Many heralded the decision...

...while others were outraged.

A lot of the opposition seemed to be premised on the mistaken belief that the fetus might survive the ordeal and be carried to term. But that's incorrect; in fact, the judge issued his ruling in part because lawyers for the hospital admitted that the fetus has no chance of surviving regardless of whether Muñoz remains on life support or not.