Texas Life Support Battle Ends

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Photo courtesy of nbcnews.com

Photo courtesy of nbcnews.com

This Sunday, the long battle over the fate of a brain-dead Texas woman and her fetus was decided. In Fort Worth, Texas, Marlise Munoz, who was declared brain dead last November, and who was 23 weeks pregnant was taken off life support Sunday morning in compliance with the wishes of her husband, Erick Munoz and her parents.

Mrs. Muñoz was found unconscious by her husband on November 26, due to what was believed to be a blood clot. She was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth where officials found that she was brain-dead and concluded that the fetus, which was 14 weeks in gestation, could not be delivered alive at such an early time in the pregnancy.

The hospital, however, would not declare her legally dead and kept her on life support, despite objections from her husband and her parents. The hospital cited The Texas Advance Directives Act, which forbids the removal of treatment for a pregnant patient.

The Muñoz family responded by filing a lawsuit against the hospital, demanding that the life support be removed.  Muñoz stated that he and his now deceased wife are paramedics, and that they had agreed not to be put on life support in such a situation.

Several legal experts, two of whom helped draft the law in question, have said that the law was being misinterpreted in the situation, as Mrs. Muñoz is considered to be legally and medically dead.

The defense argued that the hospital had an obligation to protect the life of the unborn fetus. With Larry Thompson, a state lawyer representing the hospital, saying, “there is a life involved, and the life is the unborn child.”

In a statement issued through Muñoz’s attorneys, they attempt to discredit “the claim that keeping the mother alive for the sake of the fetus…” The fetus had lower extremity deformation  to the extent that the gender could not be determined. It also had brain swelling, also known as “hydrocephalus,” and a possible heart problem.

In the end, Judge R.H. Wallace sided with the Muñoz family. The hospital has yet to file an appeal.

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