Texas Hospital Ends Life Support for Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman

On Sunday, a pregnant, brain-dead woman was taken off life support in compliance with a judge's orders. Marlise Muñoz collapsed from a presumed pulmonary embolism in November when she was 14 weeks pregnant and put on life support against her family's wishes. On Friday, a district judge told John Peter Smith Hospital that it had until 5:00 p.m. Monday to disconnect Muñoz from the machines that kept her body working.

Although neither Muñoz nor her husband had signed a Do Not Resucitate form, the husband maintains that she never wanted to be put on life support. "We know what her wishes were," he said. As Bustle reported:

Even if they had signed a DNR form, Texas law still mandates that a pregnant woman be kept alive for the baby’s sake. And if Marlise’s family filed an injunction, experts say it would be unlikely that a judge would override the law. The state’s Health and Safety Code is very clear-cut, stating: “A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.”

Both hospital and family agreed that Muñoz was brain-dead, but the case continued due to the hospital's insistence that it was following the law. In Friday's ruling, the judge determined that the hospital was not following the spirit of the law but misapplying it. By Friday, it was also clear that the 22-week-old fetus was nonviable and "distinctly abnormal".

The hospital did not issue a decision on whether it would end Muñoz's life support immediately after the ruling. But on Sunday it issued a statement indicating that it would comply with the order, though not clarifying what would be done. Said the statement,

JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute. From the onset, JPS has said its role was not to make nor contest law but to follow it. On Friday, a state district judge ordered the removal of life-sustaining treatment from Marlise Munoz. The hospital will follow the court order.

Muñoz's family confirmed later on Sunday that she had been disconnected earlier that morning.