FORT WORTH, Texas – A judge on Friday ordered a Texas hospital to remove life support for a pregnant, brain-dead woman whose family said she would not want to be kept in that condition.
Judge R.H. Wallace Jr. issued the ruling in the case of Marlise Munoz. John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth has been keeping Munoz on life support against her family’s wishes. The judge gave the hospital until 5 p.m. Monday to remove life support. The hospital did not immediately say whether it would appeal.
Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when her husband, Erick Munoz, found her unconscious Nov. 26, possibly due to a blood clot. The hospital and the family agreed that she meets the criteria to be considered brain-dead – which means she is dead medically as well as under Texas law – and that the fetus could not be born alive at this point.
But the hospital had not pronounced her dead and continues to treat her over the objections of Erick Munoz and her parents, who sat together in court Friday.
Mrs. Munoz is dead, Wallace said in issuing his ruling, adding that the hospital was misapplying a state law prohibiting the removal of life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient.
Larry Thompson, a state’s attorney representing the public hospital, had told the judge the hospital had a legal responsibility to protect the unborn fetus.
There is a life involved, and the life is the unborn child, Thompson said.
But Erick Munoz’s attorneys accused the hospital of conducting a science experiment and warned of the dangerous precedent her case could set, raising the specter of special intensive care units for brain-dead pregnant women.
There is an infant, and a dead person serving as a dysfunctional incubator, said Heather King, one of Erick Munoz’s attorneys.
Munoz said he and his wife, both paramedics, were clear that they didn’t want life support in this type of situation. Her parents agreed.