Texas Woman Brain Dead and Pregnant is Taken off Life Support

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A family requested their attorneys ask judges to take a Texas woman brain dead and pregnant, off life support. CNN health reported after the trial on Friday January 24th the judges granted the family’s wishes. According to ABC News WFAA of Dallas, Texas, the hospital was opposing the request because they were bound by legalities to keep her alive through means of artificial life support, to maintain a substance of life for her baby.

Erick Munoz, husband of 33-year-old Marlise, the Texas woman who is brain dead and pregnant, was seeking permission from R.H. Wallace, State District Judge. Erick filed the lawsuit against John Peter Smith Hospital on Friday January 24th, 2014. The law that the hospital was operating under states that they cannot remove such treatment if the patient is pregnant. However, it is believed that the hospital was misusing the law in this situation, because in this case the woman was beyond the help of medical personnel. In this situation, the Texas woman was brain dead and the only way to sustain life was with life support. Without the life support she would not be able to breathe on her own.

On November 26, 2012, Erick discovered his wife unconscious. The rest of her family believes this could have been due to a blood clot, although the exact cause is unknown at this time. Erick told press members his wife, who was a paramedic, never wanted to be left in such a vegetable state. However, due to the fact that the hospital’s decision was based on a state law that prohibited removing treatment from a pregnant woman, the hospital refused the family’s requests to remove Marlise from life support.

This has caused issues concerning whether this Texas woman  who was brain dead and pregnant should have been kept alive for the sake of her fetus, especially since she was medically and legally considered dead according to neurological criteria. Since, she was still pregnant such ethical issues related to abortions have risen, and both sides of the debate are affirming their stance.

Marlise’s fetus was said to be at week twenty-two of gestation. Her husband’s attorneys have informed the public that the fetus had abnormalities such as, fluid build-up within the skull and potential heart problems. Erick was unsure about the fetus’ well-being. The Washington Post reported that Marlise was at eleven weeks when she was found unconscious, and her fetus was believed to have been without oxygen for an unknown amount of time. Erick was worried about the potential affects the fetus had sustained while in Marlise’s womb. Erick’s attorneys told the press, Wednesday, the fetus did in fact contain significant abnormalities.

Overall, there is very little known about the survival rate of a fetus whose mother suffers from brain damage. The Washington Post reports that there are 30 cases over the span of more than 30 years where German doctors studied women who were brain dead and pregnant. The women where all farther along than twenty two weeks. Actual births only happened for nineteen, twelve in which bore a child capable of life, and only six had developed with after birth results. For Marlise, who remains in a vegetative state, a birth with viable results could not have been possible.

By Sarah Widger


CNN Health
Washington Post