Life support for a brain-dead pregnant woman has been ordered removed by a Texas judge overseeing the case. Marlise Munoz, 33 at the time of her death November 28, 2013, was 14 weeks pregnant when she was found unconscious by her husband, Erick. She was deemed to be brain-dead but has yet to be officially pronounced dead by doctors.
She and Erick were paramedics and, according to reports, had spoken of end of life wishes. Marlise Munoz had, according to her husband and her parents, made it clear that she did not want to be kept alive by machines, should something drastic happen. When Erick found her, she was unconscious and later, doctors had said she was apparently brain-dead.
She has been kept breathing via a ventilator, with other machines keeping the blood flowing throughout her body so that her unborn fetus would have a chance at life. That chance, however, is apparently gone; the fetus has been deemed non-viable, with no clear genitalia evident and several other abnormalities made clear according to the Munoz family attorneys.
As the Texas judge ordered the life support for the brain-dead pregnant woman removed, Erick Munoz dissolved into tears, while his attorney Jessica Janicek argued that John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth had been using Marlise’s body for a science experiment that has gone on for too long. Doctors have all agreed that Marlise had met the clinical criteria for brain death since November 28 and that the fetus was not developing normally.
There is a Texas law – one that is in place in many states – that states that no life-saving measures will be withheld from pregnant women. The directives come from the Texas Advance Directives Act, which is designed to restrict the number of abortions in the state, effectively.
State’s attorney Larry Thompson, who has been representing the hospital, said that the law was in place to protect the lives of unborn fetuses. The hospital has until 5 p.m. January 27 to execute the judge’s order.
Erick Munoz said in an affidavit that there was little that was tangibly recognizable about his beloved wife. He noted that the room had smelled of death instead of her usual scent and that her bones would crack if her body was moved. In effect, Erick Munoz said there was nothing left of the woman he loved except for her body.
Both Erick Munoz and his in-laws have been embroiled in the fight to get Marlise taken off life support. Even though her wishes had not been written down, both her parents and her husband have said that she had made it clear multiple times that she did not want to be kept alive mechanically if something was to happen.
Lawyers for Munoz argued that death happens. They said that pregnant women die daily and that their fetuses die with them. They argued that the situation the Munoz family now finds itself in is no different.
While life support for the brain-dead pregnant woman has been ordered removed, John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth still has the option of filing an appeal.
By Christina St-Jean