Texas Hospital Being Pressured to Take Pregnant Woman Off Life Support

Munoz Credit CNNFORT WORTH — A hospital in Texas is being pressured to take a brain dead woman, who is also 20-weeks pregnant, off life support.

Marlise 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 nearly two months ago. However, her baby, who was fourteen weeks gestation at the time of the incident, has a measurable heartbeat.

But Munoz’ husband and her parents both want the mother removed from life support, asserting that she would not wish to be kept alive by machines. Munoz worked as a paramedic, as does her husband.

“Marlise firmly requested not to be put on life support,” her mother Lynne recently wrote on a local news outlet’s Facebook page. “Her wishes are not being honored.”

However, because Munoz is pregnant, John Peter Smith Hospital states that it cannot legally remove her 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. Munoz must be kept on life support until the baby can be delivered at a viable stage, usually 24 to 26 weeks gestation.

Her family has now obtained legal counsel, which told reporters on Friday that it planned to take the matter to the courts.

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“We do plan on filing some litigation, and it will be filed soon,” attorney Heather King told the Fort Worth Telegram.

Attorneys note that abortion would have been a legal option had the mother not been on life support, and assert that hospital officials are misinterpreting the law.

Representatives for John Peter Smith Hospital state that they welcome the litigation.

“JPS is encouraged by this development because the courts are the appropriate venue to provide clarity, direction and resolution in this matter,” remarked spokesman J.R. Labbe in a statement last week. “JPS remains focused on providing compassionate care to all patients while also following the law as it applies to healthcare in the state of Texas.”

On Sunday, a group of nine protesters stood outside the hospital with signs, urging the hospital to remove Munoz from the ventilator. Some of the signs declared “Texas, stop legislating women’s bodies” and “What the state is doing is unnatural.”

The national abortion advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America has also launched a petition to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, urging him to support Munoz’ family’s decision to take the woman off life support.

“The Munoz family deserves better than this—and it’s up to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to show them that the state of Texas respects their wishes and their privacy,” it reads in part.

But Joe Pojman of Texas Alliance for Life says that he applauds the hospital for following the law and keeping the child alive.

“We commend the hospital for apparently doing everything possible to protect the life of the unborn child, who in our view is a separate person,” he told the Dallas News.

Texas Right to Life agreed.

“Mrs. Munoz’s tragic circumstance involves two patients who must be considered,” Melissa Conway, director of external relations told the Christian Post, noting that she is unsure if Munoz is truly brain dead. “Based on the information made public, Mrs. Munoz is not experiencing multi-system organ failure or cell disintegration, and her body is supporting the growth of the child within her—all signs to indicate that her brain, though impaired or quiescent, is still ordering her physiological functions at some level.”

The baby is now 21 weeks gestation.

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  • LemonySnicket

    It’s only a few more weeks until the baby is viable. The hospital should be able to draw out the battle long enough to do the right thing (thankfully–and good for them!!!).

  • Elaine

    Save the baby!

  • Terri Cadwell

    I have been in the medical field for over 20 years now. Now if I were, personally,in the position that Mrs. Munoz is in, and it were just my OWN life, then I would support taking her off of life support to respect her wishes. But it is not only her life you have to consider now. And I think if she had been asked the same question about being kept on life support, but, this time, in order to save her baby’s life… I believe her answer would be “yes”. She is also a Mother who I believe would do, like any Mother would, anything possible to save the life of her child. So as I am strongly in agreement for respecting a patient’s advanced directives, I also think that, in this situation, you have to consider BOTH patients. And at 21 weeks gestation, the baby she is carrying is more than just another patient, it is a part of HER and her husband. I just do not understand how you can be losing your spouse, and have the option to save the life of your child…that you know she, as a mother, would probably do anything in the world to save… and STILL want to remove her off of life support. Knowing and understanding that you are not only ending her life, but the life of your OWN child. THAT I do NOT agree with, at all. It is an ethical and moral decision, and we as healthcare workers are responsible for doing anything and everything to save lives!!! That includes the life of an unborn child!!! Even though he/she may be “unborn”, he/she is still a LIFE!!!! And as far as I have understood thus far, is that he/she has a strong heartbeat and is healthy!! SAVE THAT BABY’S LIFE. I believe his/her’s Mommy would WANT that. I would give my life up for the life of one of my children, even if it meant placing me on life support to do so!!! That is the ONLY way in which I would agree to be put on life support. I support the hospital’s decision for doing their job, and giving that baby a CHANCE at life. A chance you know his/her(‘s)Mother would want us to give!! Sending all the love and prayers possible that precious baby’s way!!!! He/She needs it!!! That baby has stayed alive for a reason. Reason probably being that that is what it’s Mommy wants.

  • martin

    I agree let the baby live it is sad that her family doesn’t want it. I am sure it will go to a good family.

  • Tiffany Jacobson

    I can’t believe that this is even a debate. We, as a society, need to value life, at all cost. Young or old, people are what what matter. Somewhere along the line “convenience” became more valuable.

  • heather

    We are a family of 5, two boys and a girl. We went through IVF to get her and it was such a gut wrenching process. Thankfully, because of much prayer, the procedure worked the first time as it took every extra dime we had saved. Since this family does not want this child, we will gladly open our hearts and home to this baby. How can we go about getting on a list? Sign us up, Kerry and Heather McArthur, Greensboro, NC!!
    God Bless

  • Mark

    I don’t see a problem here. This has been done before when pregnant moms have been injured in accidents and they are kept live long enough to give birth to her baby, then she is disconnected from life support and she dies a dignified death.

    Since the baby is a healthy one, why is dad bent on killing his wife before their 2nd child is born?

    Keep her live long enough to give birth then allow her to die decently. One lives, one dies. This is life and death.