Health Law

Hospital takes brain-dead pregnant woman off life support after judge's order


Updated: Siding with the husband of a pregnant woman who has been on life support in a Texas hospital since November, even though she was considered brain-dead, a state court judge Friday ordered that Marlise Munoz be taken off life-support by 5 p.m. Monday. She was taken off life support at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, CNN reported.

Her husband, Erick Munoz, wept after the ruling. He and other family members have said the refusal of John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth to take her off life support has forced them to engage with a deteriorating body that bears little resemblance to the woman they knew, according to CNN and Reuters.

Representatives of the hospital had said it was simply complying with a state law concerning medical directives that says pregnant patients and their representatives cannot refuse “life-sustaining” treatment. Munoz argues that the law doesn’t apply to dead bodies or, if it is applicable, it is unconstitutional.

The hospital acknowledged in a statement Sunday that Marlise Munoz had been brain-dead since Nov. 28, and that the fetus she carried was not viable. “The past eight weeks have been difficult for the Munoz family, the caregivers and the entire Tarrant County community, which found itself involved in a sad situation,” the hospital said in the statement. “JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute.”

A Dallas Morning News article links to a copy of the one-page order (PDF) by Judge R. H. Wallace Jr. It says the provision of the state health and safety code relied on by the hospital is not applicable because, under other applicable standards of the health and safety code, “Mrs. Munoz is dead.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Husband sues hospital to force it to take his brain-dead, pregnant wife off life support”

Updated Jan. 26 to note that Marlise Munoz had been taken off life support.

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