FORT WORTH, Tex. — A hospital in Texas has decided not to fight a judge’s orders to remove a pregnant brain dead woman from life support, removing the woman from the ventilator on Sunday and thus ending her nearly 23-week-old baby’s life.
“From the onset, JPS has said its role was not to make nor contest law but to follow it,” John Peter Smith Hospital representative J.R. Labbe wrote in a statement released Sunday morning. “On Friday, a state district judge ordered the removal of life-sustaining treatment from Marlise Munoz. The hospital will follow the court order.”
As previously reported, Munoz, 33, has been on a ventilator since late November when her husband Erick, 26, found her unconscious in the middle of the night. According to Mr. Munoz, the woman got up after 2 a.m. to check on their infant son, and when she did not return, he got up to check on both of them, finding his wife collapsed on the floor.
Doctors believe that Munoz suffered a blood clot in her lung, which caused her to collapse. She has had no brain activity since being admitted to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth two months ago. However, her baby, who was fourteen weeks gestation at the time of the incident, reportedly had a measurable heartbeat, which resulted in a disagreement between the hospital and Munoz’ family.
Munoz’ husband and her parents both wanted the mother removed from life support, asserting that she would not wish to be kept alive by machines. The family filed a lawsuit against John Peter Smith Hospital earlier this month after officials contended that they could not legally remove Munoz from the ventilator due to the Texas Advance Directive Act, which states that “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant woman.
Following a hearing on Friday, Judge R.H. Wallace sided with Munoz’ family, stating that she is deceased and that the law being cited by the hospital does not apply to the dead.
“The provisions of … the Texas Health and Safety Code do not apply to Marlise Munoz because applying the standard used in determining death … Mrs. Munoz is dead,” he wrote.
As the hospital had argued at trial that it had never pronounced Munoz dead, Wallace ordered that it now do so and remove her from life support by 5 p.m. Monday. The hospital decided to comply with the order and removed Munoz from the ventilator at approximately 11:30 a.m. local time on Sunday.
Munoz’ body has now been released to her husband.
“The Munoz and Machado families will now proceed with the somber task of laying Marlise Munoz’s body to rest, and grieving over the great loss that has been suffered,” attorneys Heather L. King and Jessica H. Janicek wrote in a statement. “May Marlise Munoz finally rest in peace, and her family find the strength to complete what has been an unbearably long and arduous journey.”
However, some are expressing great disapproval over the outcome of the situation, explaining that it has now resulted in two tragedies–the death of both the mother and child.
“The death of baby Munoz represents a colossal failure on so many levels. Her father failed her. The Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbot failed her. The hospital failed her. Finally, by usurping the will of the people of Texas, the courts failed her,” said Mark Harrington, Executive Director of the pro-life group Created Equal. “If only those one of those in position to stop this execution of baby Munoz would have stepped up to the plate and done the right thing, she would have been born alive in the next few weeks. Baby Munoz was a human being who deserved the same legal protections of born people. The truth is baby Munoz was executed by judicial tyranny.”
Protests were held outside of the hospital following the death of the baby. Some reports state that the baby was “distinctly abnormal” and had serious health concerns due to Munoz being brain dead for two months, but others have opined that the baby’s condition still does not justify ending the child’s life.
“Why was baby Munoz denied even the possibility of survival? It appears that the baby girl’s disabilities determined her value in this case, and sadly, it was wrongly decided that her life was not worth saving,” said Jennifer Mason of Personhood USA. “According to ABC News, family attorneys may have blamed a lack of oxygen for the baby’s apparent medical issues incorrectly, according to medical experts. Regardless, disabled children are created in God’s image, and still have a right to live.”
“The baby may or may not have survived a c-section, but if she didn’t make it, her passing would have been a tragedy instead of a deliberate killing,” she added. “It is absolutely wrong to kill an innocent person, no matter their age, location, size, sex, race, or ability. The murder of Marlise Munoz’ baby was wrong, just as abortion is always wrong.”