For the Munoz family in Texas, at long last there is some hope of peace as the hospital terminates the life support that sustained Marlise Munoz’s pregnancy. The court deadline had issued a directive to take Ms. Munoz off life support latest by 5 PM on Monday, the 27th of January. Responding to the deadline issued by Texas Judge R. H. Wallace Jr., the John Peter Smith Hospital had agreed to comply with the court order to take Ms. Munoz off life support. The hospital located in Fort Worth, had the option to appeal the court’s decision, but chose not to do so despite immense pressure by the pro-life lobby in the state. Recent updates report that the hospital took Ms. Munoz off the ventilator at 11:30 AM Central Time on Sunday and released the body to her husband and family. The family can now begin the sorrowful task of preparing to lay her remains to rest.
J.R. Labbe, a hospital spokesman said earlier on Sunday that JPS Hospital had no desire to make or fight any law and that they merely wished to follow it. The hospital had pronounced the woman brain dead two days after she was brought there. Marlise Munoz had collapsed on her kitchen floor when she was 14 weeks pregnant from what is believed to have been a pulmonary embolism. The fetus was not viable in any way and had serious medical conditions such as water in the brain cavities, a heart condition and it was even not possible to determine the gender.
The hospital defended their decision to not terminate the pregnancy by insisting on life support to sustain it, by saying they were merely upholding their understanding of Texas law. Texas law states that extreme measures of life support cannot be terminated if a female patient is pregnant. Those in the opposing camp had put forth the argument that Ms Munoz being brain dead could no longer even be considered a patient. The law applies only to patients who are pregnant and terminally ill.
The hospital and the situation have been under intense scrutiny over the last few months by pro-life and pro-choice groups. The former believe that the life of the fetus must be protected and that it must be given a chance to live and survive. However the opposing camp feels that this disrespects the wishes of the family and is inhumane treatment of what is essentially a dead body.
It is very difficult to accept that the State can control when a beloved family member dies. Many issues then come to the surface such as the rights of the unborn child to live, the rights of the family to take end-of-life decisions, whether it is right to mandate to disregard the Do Not Resuscitate decision of a person etc. The latter is just what Texan law has mandated and every DNR form has a disclaimer that negates it if the woman is pregnant. Fortunately this saga reached its conclusion when the viability of the fetus was debated. The legal system acknowledged that Ms. Munoz was dead to all intents and purposes and finally directed the Texas hospital to terminate the life support responsible entirely for sustaining the pregnancy of a dead woman.
Editorial By Grace Stephen