Texas Hospital Sued by Husband of Brain Dead Pregnant Woman

Texas Hospital

The husband of a brain-dead pregnant woman has sued a Texas hospital to be able to remove his wife from life support .  Erick Munoz is suing Fort Worth’s John Peter Smith Hospital in an effort to remove 33-year-old Marlise off life support.  Munoz found his wife, then 14 weeks pregnant with their second child, unconscious on their kitchen floor the morning of November 26. 

Munoz shortly heard the news that no man should hear about his partner; his wife was brain-dead.  He and Marlise were both paramedics, and had discussed issues such as life support so that both of them knew exactly what the other wanted in the event that anything happened.  Marlise had, according to Erick Munoz and Marlise’s parents, made it very clear that she did not want any extra measures keeping her alive.

That was roughly seven weeks ago, and the Munoz’s baby continues to survive.  Now around 21 weeks old, the baby’s heartbeat is as strong as ever.

So, however, is Munoz’s resolve to see his wife’s wishes followed.  The Texas hospital at the center of this case sees a husband and his in-laws trying to do what they can to ensure Marlise’s wishes are followed, even when that means the death of the child her body continues to maintain.  There are, however, pregnancy exclusion laws that govern the Fort Worth hospital’s decision to maintain life support.

There is a Texas law still on the books, though, that states that life support can not be withdrawn or withheld from a pregnant woman. This is the law that ensures life saving measures are still being used in order to keep Marlise Munoz mechanically alive.

Erick Munoz and his parents-in-law both agree that their beloved Marlise would not want to be kept alive through mechanical means, even if it meant their as-yet unborn child would not survive.  While the fetus’ heart continues to beat, its overall health is unknown.  It’s believed the fetus would have been left without oxygen for some time before Marlise was discovered on her kitchen floor.

Some legal experts are saying the hospital is incorrectly applying the statute requiring pregnant women should be granted whatever life saving treatment they may require. This means that Marlise Munoz has been kept alive for seven weeks, even though it was a measure she specifically declined.  If the hospital is incorrectly interpreting and applying this statute, they are effectively applying the statute in such a way that the law sees Marlise Munoz, as the pregnant patient, being used as a fetal gestator.

So, the husband of this brain-dead pregnant woman is suing the Texas hospital, since this is not what Marlise would have wanted.  The matter has saddened and dismayed the Munoz family, who only want to see Marlise’s wishes followed.  Marlise’s mother, Lynne Machado, said that they all knew exactly what Marlise’s wishes were in the event something would have happened.

Doctors at the Fort Worth, Texas hospital have said that when the fetus reaches the 24 week mark, they will take another look at the condition of the fetus to determine their next course of action. The options could include cesarean section surgery.  There is nothing, however, that can guarantee the overall safety of the fetus, or its survivability. The fetus is simply far too young for that.

Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the office of clinical ethics and palliative care for Baylor Health Care System, believes that the hospital is making an error in judgment when it comes to the pregnancy exclusion laws.  He says there is nothing either terminal or irreversibly ill about the patient. Marlise Munoz is technically dead, and therefore, the pregnancy exclusion laws do not apply.

As a grieving husband tries to say goodbye to his brain-dead pregnant wife, he is suing the Texas hospital she’s being kept alive in. The hospital, however, remains steadfast in its belief that they are legally bound to keep Marlise Munoz, and her unborn child, alive by any means necessary.  A petition has been started by abortion rights activists to support Munoz and his family in his fight.

By Christina St-Jean

Sources:

ABC.net

RH Reality Check

CBS News

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