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Judge orders Texas hospital to remove life support from pregnant, brain-dead woman

Husband Sues to Take Pregnant Wife Off Life Support

A judge on Friday ordered a Texas hospital to remove life support for a pregnant, brain-dead woman whose family had argued that she would not want to be kept in that condition.

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. Both the hospital and the family agree that the fetus could not be born alive at this point. However, John Peter Smith Hospital had argued that it had to protect the life of the unborn child.

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

Attorneys for the family declined to say what the next steps were, pending a potential appeal 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 Friday in response to the ruling.

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 because Marlise Munoz would be considered legally and medically dead.

"Marlise Munoz is dead, and she gave clear instructions to her husband and family -- Marlise was not to remain on any type of artificial `life sustaining treatment', ventilators or the like," the lawsuit said. "There is no reason JPS should be allowed to continue treatment on Marlise Munoz's dead body, and this Court should order JPS to immediately discontinue such."

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.

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.

In refusing to take Marlise Munoz off life support, the hospital has cited a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act that reads: "A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient."

Experts interviewed by The Associated Press, including two who helped draft the legislation, said a brain-dead patient's case wouldn't be covered by the law.

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kathymherzog January 28 2014 at 8:32 AM

Maybe Marlis and her family know her wishes, wondering if she made this knownbeforeafterswasshwas pregnant This is case is clearly complex, if she made clear her wishes, knowing this...wonder what they would do if she was 30 weeks pregnant when this happened? Would they deliver the baby......or not? Based on her wishes.....

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Ingrid January 25 2014 at 12:24 PM

If Marlise is brain-dead and left advanced directives, they should honor those directives. Nobody should have the right to go against those directives!!! This was her life, her decision!!! Let her go!!!!

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ktlyn1992 January 25 2014 at 10:33 AM

How about one of you go to that hospital and tell the father that you will pay the bill and raise the child if you really care so much.

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mskd58 January 25 2014 at 2:36 AM

Marlise Munoz is dead. She was on life support in order to deliver the baby she was carrying. The baby did not show normal developement. My opinion is that this baby, if able to survive (and I believe this was not going to be the case) she/he would probably not have the ability to live a full life and probably would have to have full time care through out life. Consider the mothers wishes to not be on life support with no hope for a live future. Let them go to rest.

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jmca164991 January 25 2014 at 1:02 AM

"Distinctly abnormal." In what way? I too am 100% pro-life, and no one - family, doctors, or courts - has the right to take God's place. Our God is the God of life and, according to the Bible, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Let God make that decision. If He knows that it would be best to take the baby away, let Him do it in His way, and in His time. In the meantime, the Declaration of Independence says that the baby is endowed by his or her Creator with an unalienable right to life. At 22 weeks the baby has a beating heart and can feel pain. The baby is a person who, under our Constitution, has the right to equal protection of the law. I certainly sympathize with the family going through such an emotional struggle. But they should realize that, if God should allow the baby to live and be successfully delivered full term, regardless of any abnormality, they could very well experience a far deeper love and blessing than they ever imagined.

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2 replies to jmca164991's comment
mousetails983 January 25 2014 at 2:32 AM

Without medical intervention this lady would not be on a machine and her and her baby would have been gone according to Gods plan. The machine is keeping this fetus alive, not God.

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ktlyn1992 January 25 2014 at 10:30 AM

GOD made his decision, and by keeping her dead body beating via machinery is more of a disgrace to him than just letting them go peacefully and NATURALLY.

Good grief you people are nuts.

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ccooper94 January 25 2014 at 12:10 AM

save the turtle what is screwed up with our society

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nitae1952 January 25 2014 at 12:06 AM

This is such a sad situaton for this husband and family. Both husband and wife agreed that they should not be kept on life support no matter what. I think that the hospital should let her die with dignity, and let the family deal with the sadness and put her body to rest so thier lifes can go on. Not one should be forced to be kept on life support. The baby is most likely not a normal fetus. Chances are it is deformed and won't live very long. I will never understand why any hospital or anyone else would want to put someone threw all of this sadness, let alone the cost. I believe it is their decision and no one elses. She is legally dead let it end.

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Linda January 25 2014 at 12:05 AM

Finally!!! It's sad when a family can't have what they're loved ones wishes are. May this family finally get closer and this mom and her baby rest in peace.

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Lazaraescudaro January 24 2014 at 11:55 PM

"We are all different – but we share the same human spirit. Perhaps it's human nature that we adapt – and survive."

—Stephen Hawking, Hawking

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ironmikemiata January 24 2014 at 11:54 PM

Sounds like the 'Piggletts have been on the "Sow's Teets" too long all in the name of "Making Money"

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2 replies to ironmikemiata's comment
neutralslamm January 25 2014 at 12:02 AM

Blahahahah, I am always weary of the wheel that makes the most noise. Hello wheel. Notice how the piglets that are obsessed the most about the teat are the ones most on it? Oh, and it’s TEAT and PIGLETS, you can learn how to spell along with your flawed logic.

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Linda January 25 2014 at 12:06 AM

Your stupid and insensitive

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