Pregnant, Brain-Dead Woman Removed from Life Support per Judge's Order
A Texas woman who was pregnant and said to be brain-dead was removed from life support at a Fort Worth hospital Sunday in accordance with an order from a Tarrant County district court.
According to the Associated Press, Marlise Munoz was removed from life support at 11:30 a.m. central time.
“The Munoz and Machado families will now proceed with the somber task of laying Marlise Munoz’s body to rest and grieving over the great loss that has been suffered,” said husband Erick Munoz’s (pictured) representatives in a statement. “May Marlise Munoz finally rest in peace, and her family find the strength to complete what has been an unbearably long and arduous journey.”
The case of Marlise Munoz has been controversial in that it raised issues about end-of-life care for a pregnant woman who is considered brain-dead yet who might be sustained on life support for the sake of her unborn child. Munoz was fourteen weeks pregnant when her husband found her unconscious on November 26th, possibly due to a blood clot.
Erick Munoz and the hospital agreed that his wife met the criteria to be considered brain-dead under Texas law—and that her unborn baby, at about 23 weeks, could not be born alive this early in the pregnancy.
In a signed affidavit Thursday, Munoz wrote about the decline of his wife’s condition.
“Her limbs have become so stiff and rigid due to her deteriorating condition that now, when I move her hands, her bones crack, and her legs are nothing more than dead weight,” he said.
John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, however, argued that it was bound by Texas law to continue life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient, regardless of her end-of-life wishes.
State’s attorney Larry Thompson argued Friday that the hospital was trying to protect the rights of the fetus as it believed Texas law intended.
“There is a life involved, and the life is the unborn child,” Thompson said.
Judge R.H. Wallace, however, gave the hospital until 5:00 p.m. Monday to comply with his ruling to remove Munoz from life support. On Sunday, the hospital spokesperson said it would respect the judge’s order and comply with it.
“The past eight weeks have been difficult for the Munoz family, the caregivers, and the entire Tarrant County community, which found itself involved in a sad situation,” says the hospital’s statement. “JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute.”
According to Fox News, legal experts interviewed by the Associated Press said the hospital was misreading the law and argued that the state’s law is not absolute in its demand to keep someone in Munoz’s condition on life support.
However, pro-life organization Operation Rescue condemned the judge’s decision to terminate life support for Munoz and her unborn baby.
Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, provided the following statement:
We are appalled by Judge Wallace’s order to terminate life support for Marlise Munoz and her baby. The order is the equivalent of signing a death sentence for Baby Munoz. We utterly reject the false notion that Marlise’s body is a rotting corpse, which is impossible since a decaying body cannot support the life of a baby for weeks, as Marlise has.
Killing people because they are disabled is wrong, and dangerously devalues all life. We condemn in the strongest terms this order to fatally discriminate against this disabled mother and her baby, especially in light of the fact that there are people standing by to adopt the baby knowing that the child will have special needs.
On Sunday, Operation Rescue had planned a prayer vigil at the hospital and peaceful protest at the office of Robert Earley, president and chief executive officer of JPS Hospital, with a goal of urging the hospital to appeal Wallace’s decision.
According to Operation Rescue, a recent study has shown that babies in similar circumstances have about a 50 percent survival rate. Had Munoz been kept on life support a few more weeks, the group said her baby may have been delivered and cared for appropriately.
Upon hearing that Munoz was removed from life support earlier in the day on Sunday, Newman released the following statement:
We are grieved that the JPS hospital has removed life support from Marlise Munoz and her baby. As the term “life support” implies, Marlise’s body was alive and supporting a thriving pregnancy at the time support was withdrawn.
It is despicable that dehumanizing and deceptive language was used to refer to Marlise as a “corpse” and her baby’s condition as “incompatible with life” in order to elicit public support for putting them to death.
“This case just goes to show how far we have slipped into the abyss of a Culture of Death and how intolerant we have become of those who are seen as ‘inconvenient,’” Newman said.