Update: Texas Judge Rules Pregnant, Dead Woman To Be Taken Off Life Support
After a horrifying ordeal, a Texas judge has ordered a Fort Worth hospital to remove pregnant and brain-dead Marlise Munoz from life-sustaining machines on Friday. This ruling is presumably the end—depending on if the hospital decides to issue an appeal—of a debate that has essentially made Munoz an incubator for her unborn child.
Marlise was 14 weeks pregnant when her husband, Erik Munoz, found her unconscious on Nov. 26, possibly due to a blood clot. The hospital refused to pronounce her dead and has continued to treat her over the objections of both Erik Munoz and her parents, and the expressed wishes of the patient. Three months later, Mr. Munoz, along with the parents of his wife, broke down in tears and were inconsolable as Judge R.H. Wallace told the Texas hospital to act on his order by 5 PM on Jan. 27.
As reported by CNN, testimony during the trail revealed that the hospital and the Munoz family did agree on some critical facts, “that Marlise Munoz, 33, has ‘met the clinical criteria for brain death since Nov.r 28′ and that ‘the fetus gestating inside Mrs. Munoz is not viable.’” A fact that Erik Munoz reports to have been told by doctors at the initial stages of her treatment.
While a lawyer for the Munoz family blasted the hospital as merely conducting a science experiment, officials from John Peter Smith Hospital affirm they were following the letter of Texas law, which states, “you cannot withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient.”
Although unable to comment after the court proceedings, in an affidavit filed Thursday in court, Erik Munoz describes how his wife’s once lively eyes are now “soulless”, that the scent of her perfume has turned to “the smell of death.” He explains how he attempts to hold her hand, but that, “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.”
It seemed the fatality of Mrs. Munoz was likely from reports, but the argument raged on over the rights of her unborn fetus. The hospital contended that those were greater than a pregnant woman’s right to die, despite her expressed wishes. In court it was concluded that Mrs. Munoz is, in fact, dead, but that her fetus is also not viable outside the medically-induced womb. It is unclear as to how long the hospital was aware of the fetus’s eventual demise.
The hospital has until Jan. 27 at 5PM to remove all life sustaining measures from the body of Marlise Munoz, but it is not yet clear if an appeal will be made, possibly prolonging the end of this heart-wrenching story. As Munoz family lawyer, Jessica King, realistically expressed, “Pregnant women die every day. They die in car accidents, of heart attacks and other injuries. And when they die, their fetus dies with them.”
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