A pregnant woman has been taken off life support by a hospital in Texas. The hospital followed the court-order set, after the family of the woman pleaded for them to follow her wishes.
Marlise Munoz, a Tarrant County paramedic, had been placed on life support after not regaining consciousness after a collapse in her home. Reasons for the collapse are not clear, but a blood clot has been suspected. She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time, so the hospital believed they had no choice but to sustain her life; it is Texas law for an expectant mother to be placed on life support to help the growing baby.
Erick Munoz, Mrs. Munoz’s husband, wanted his wife’s support to be removed. There was no guarantee that the baby would form normally, due to the lack of oxygen after the collapse; Mrs. Munoz had stopped breathing and Mr. Munoz had to perform CPR.
Eventually, the family’s legal team reported that the baby was deformed. Despite the pregnancy being at the stage where the sex of the baby should have been distinguishable, the lower extremities were too deformed to be able to tell. The legal team also stated that it was not surprising; not only had the baby been deprived of oxygen, the baby was growing in the body of a brain dead woman.
The husband argued that Mrs. Munoz has specifically stated she did not want life support. This was a conversation they had had after her brother’s passing. However, the only way the Texas hospital would take a pregnant woman off life support was through an order from the courts. Mr. Munoz had no option but to sue the hospital.
According to Judge R. H. Wallace Jr., the hospital had been misapplying the law. While the state law says that a hospital cannot remove the life-sustaining treatment of a pregnant woman for the fetus, the hospital and court agree that Mrs. Munoz is brain dead. The treatment is not life-sustaining as the patient was dead. Wallace never mentioned the fetus during the ruling.
At around 11:30am CST on January 26, the hospital followed the court-order and removed the life support, according to a statement by Jessica H. Janicek and Heather L. King, attorneys of Munoz. It has given the family an opportunity to lay Mrs. Munoz to rest, so Mr. Munoz can provide for his son. The son was the first child between the couple and is around 12-months-old.
The whole case has brought the issue, surrounding life support and pregnant women, into the public eye. Those opposed to abortion have stated that the fetus should have the chance to grow and live. However, there are questions over whether the fetus would gain the nourishment needed in the body of a medically dead person. The baby was also not at a stage where it could be born and survive outside of the womb. The judge had a difficult decision to make but ruled that the patient was medically dead, so Texas state law did not apply. He ordered the Texas hospital to take the pregnant woman off life support and give the family a chance to move on from the tragedy.
By Alexandria Ingham