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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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Tutu January 24 2014 at 2:58 PM

I have mixed feelings on this one. I will say that we must all put into writing what we want done for us if we are unable to make the decisions ourselves.

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1 reply
mesndradee Tutu January 24 2014 at 3:09 PM

I agree with you. Unfortunately, our family found out the hard way that even if you have something in writing the hospital can over ride that. If you are taken in to the hospital with a life threatening or just dangerous problem and consent to them treating you for that you have just waived your living will rights away. It's not as easy as just having everything in writing and this causes people undue hardship, pain and hospital bills that can be in the thousands.

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1 reply
Dot mesndradee January 24 2014 at 3:33 PM

The family is going through one of the most difficult time in their lives, please let him have the last say as he had in their marriage vows. In sickness and health until death part them. Who are we to judge and why should the courts get involved. How do we know if the baby will be born healthy and/or die. He will than have another difficult day as there is nothing more sad than have to bury you child. May God help him, his son and the rest of the family through this in his most devasted time. He also is taking care of his son. To much, to soon and unplanned. We should just support him for his decision as he will have to live with for the rest of his life. Lets all just stop and remember that our lives will go on and most of us won't even remember the family's names in 3 months. Let there be peace and say prays for them,

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giftedwith6 January 24 2014 at 1:38 PM

Being a mother of 5 I would not my child to suffer. If I was in the patients position I will want my husband to do the same and take me off the machine. The baby is not developing correct and will suffer unbearable pain let alone many surgeries to try and correct the issues at hand. If the mother was not brain dead, as a mother my self would not want my child to suffer so much. I believe in abortions when it is for the sake of the fetus. I believe it should be left to the husband inwhich knows what the mother would have wanted. It is sad that there is no will to back the husband in the wifes choices.

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1 reply
elnpet giftedwith6 January 24 2014 at 3:06 PM

What husband would have thought such a thing could happen ? She was young and probably did not think a thing like this could ever happen. So no life support orders were made. It is up to the husband now and I hope the judge allows it for the sake of the disabled fetus and the family. I believe this fetus would be deceased within minutes of being taken off of life support. A very sad thing to have to endure. But very true.

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ljflive January 24 2014 at 1:31 PM

The pregnant woman's wishes should be granted. This is one of those exceptional cases. Besides,who in the family would be willing to take care of that child if it lived?

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1 reply
sherrill ljflive January 24 2014 at 1:35 PM

first person on the "right to life list"

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nascar20155 January 24 2014 at 1:25 PM

believe me if the hospital was not sending this family medical bills, she would have been laid to rest a long time ago, it's so sad that a hospital would keep this woman hostage just to get money.

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tevroc143 January 24 2014 at 1:24 PM

No government should be able to force someone be left on life support, regardless of the woman being pregnant. Rightwingers need to mind their own business and stop attempting to control women's bodies. The more they push, the more women and their men will push back until none are left in office. 2020 Census will allow us to undo the gerrymandered red districts. Then it is goodbye rightwing nuts. Move to your off the grid compounds and leave the rest of us alone.

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1 reply
ccurt61 tevroc143 January 24 2014 at 2:47 PM

It's not the government, it's the hospital. Why don't you actually read the facts before going on some stupid conspiracy rant. Geez

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connimit January 24 2014 at 1:22 PM

I am one of those ignorant people in Texas, and even though I think you are pretty ignorant to judge all Texans as one.......I agree with you.......if the fetus does indeed have all of these problems.

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1 reply
kacalder connimit January 24 2014 at 2:11 PM

A valid and true determination of actual death MUST be objecvtive and literal, not based on any of these value judgments and "quality-of-life" issues. This "brain death" contrivance has set us up for no end of these bitter and divisive conflicts that have no resolution.

We are already allowed the discretion to withdraw life support if, with our quality-of-life values, we feel our loved one should not be allowed to go on. We do not need this treacherous "brain death" standard!

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bunsbestgirl January 24 2014 at 1:15 PM

If the mom is brain dead and on life support, how is the baby being fed if mom cannot eat?

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2 replies
dorothy bunsbestgirl January 24 2014 at 1:36 PM

the hosptial will intravenously feed the mom
thus sustaining life

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kacalder bunsbestgirl January 24 2014 at 2:14 PM

Uh, you said it yourself: life support.

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anapm82 January 24 2014 at 1:15 PM

This is a terrible situation for the family. But the wife made her wishes very clear. And no one should ever be forced to let an abnormal baby be born against their wishes. End this now.

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Mary January 24 2014 at 1:15 PM

This is so wrong. Whatever happened to the patient's last wishes? She does not want to be on life support. Also, it has been determined that the fetus (baby) will probably not survive. Go with the patient's and family's wishes.

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1 reply
mike.betts1 Mary January 24 2014 at 1:21 PM

what about the babies life what are it's wishes

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2 replies
AnnA mike.betts1 January 24 2014 at 1:33 PM

it has no wishes. it's not alive either.

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Richard mike.betts1 January 24 2014 at 2:02 PM

At the time she was legally and biologically dead, the fetus was not viable, so it was not a baby.

But thanks for playing the god card.

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phpoling January 24 2014 at 1:14 PM

Let her go. That's her final wishes.
Let her go peaceful

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