Judge orders pregnant Texas woman taken off life support

by Leigh Jones
Posted 1/24/14, 06:10 pm

A Texas judge late Friday ordered a Fort Worth hospital to take a pregnant woman off life support, condemning her baby to death.

Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when paramedics brought her to John Peter Smith Hospital in a coma on Nov. 26. Doctors believe she suffered a blood clot in her lungs. The baby is now at 22 weeks and five days of development.

Munoz’s husband and parents wanted doctors to disconnect the machines keeping her and her baby alive. In an interview with The New York Times, the woman’s father described her as “nothing more than a host for a fetus.” But hospital officials refused to take Munoz off life support for almost two months, citing a Texas law that requires treatment for pregnant women.

Lawyers for the family argued the law didn’t apply to Munoz because she was already dead, so her treatment was not “life-sustaining.” They also argued the law did not prohibit withholding or withdrawing life support for the unborn child. In court filings made public yesterday, the hospital acknowledged Munoz was technically brain dead as of Nov. 28.

One of the family’s lawyers submitted a “statement of fact” before the hearing claiming Munoz’s baby is not viable. But other babies born at 22 weeks have survived. In nine days, the baby will reach 24 weeks development—the point at which doctors agree a child has a good chance of survival.

In a statement issued before the hearing, the family claims medical records show the baby is “distinctly abnormal” and might be suffering from deformed extremities, a possible heart problem, and hydrocephalus. Marlise and Erick Munoz already have a 15-month-old son, Mateo.

The hospital has until 5 p.m. CST to disconnect Munoz’s life support.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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