Prolonged Agony – Texas Hospital Ordered To Remove Life Support From Pregnant, Brain-Dead Woman…

HatTip StellaFORT WORTH, Texas –  A judge on Friday ordered a Texas hospital to remove life support for a pregnant, brain-dead woman whose family had argued that she would not want to be kept in that condition.

Erick Munoz

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. CST Monday to remove life support.

Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when her husband found her unconscious Nov. 26, possibly due to a blood clot. Both the hospital and the family agree that the fetus could not be born alive at this point. However, John Peter Smith Hospital had argued that it had to protect the life of the unborn child.

Erick Munoz says he and his wife are paramedics who were clear that they didn’t want life support in this type of situation. Her parents agreed. His attorney argued to the judge Friday that keeping the woman on life support would set a dangerous precedent for future cases of pregnant, brain-dead women.

Attorneys for the family declined to say what the next steps were, pending a potential appeal from the hospital.

The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, who also represents the people in a class action lawsuit Xarelto, is also representing the hospital in the lawsuit, said the hospital was expected to issue a statement later Friday in response to the ruling.

Hospital officials have said they were bound by a state law prohibiting withdrawal of treatment from a pregnant patient. Several experts interviewed by The Associated Press have said the hospital is misapplying the law because Marlise Munoz would be considered legally and medically dead.

“Marlise Munoz is dead, and she gave clear instructions to her husband and family — Marlise was not to remain on any type of artificial `life sustaining treatment’, ventilators or the like,” the lawsuit said. “There is no reason JPS should be allowed to continue treatment on Marlise Munoz’s dead body, and this Court should order JPS to immediately discontinue such.”

The case has raised questions about end-of-life care and whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus. It also has gripped attention on both sides of the abortion debate, with anti-abortion groups arguing Munoz’s fetus deserves a chance to be born.

Earlier this week, Erick Munoz’s attorneys said that the fetus, now believed to be at about 22 weeks’ gestation, is “distinctly abnormal.” They attorneys said they based that statement on medical records they received from the hospital.

Not much is known about fetal survival when mothers suffer brain death during pregnancy. German doctors who searched for such cases found 30 of them in nearly 30 years, according to an article published in the journal BMC Medicine in 2010.  (continue reading)

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37 Responses to Prolonged Agony – Texas Hospital Ordered To Remove Life Support From Pregnant, Brain-Dead Woman…

  1. LetJusticePrevail" says:


    “Not much is known about fetal survival when mothers suffer brain death during pregnancy. German doctors who searched for such cases found 30 of them in nearly 30 years, according to an article published in the journal BMC Medicine in 2010.

    Those mothers were further along in pregnancy — 22 weeks on average — when brain death occurred than in the Texas case. Birth results were available for 19 cases. In 12, a viable child was born. Follow-up results were available for six, all of whom developed normally.”

    My heart goes out to this man, but I still have to ask why he wouldn’t want to preserve the life of his child that is gestating in his wife’s womb?


    • scaretactics says:

      I totally agree, LJP. We are talking about 2 lives here, not just the brain dead mom.

      And what does “distinctly abnormal” mean? Not developed fully? A genetic disorder?

      IMHO, this is killing an innocent baby. The hospital did the right thing in attempting to save the baby.


    • Stormy says:

      That is exactly what this story leaves me asking… why wouldn’t he want his child to live?


    • liloldlady says:

      Medical technology is obviously such that mom can be kept alive till baby is born. If the family believes in other life saving technology, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t want to keep mom alive at least long enough to gestate baby till viability. Would they do so if baby didn’t have abnormalities?


  2. LIndsay says:

    One must take into consideration that the baby is severely deformed and has no chance of life. Each case must be considered on it’s own. This is totally different than a healthy baby which would be a much harder choice. I can not imagine the pain of losing a daughter and to have a bunch of lawyers extend it for 2 1/2 months. As medical technology increases, more and more of these type of things will come up. The husband and remaining child need to proceed in the grieving process and the lawyers should go away.


  3. kittycat77 says:

    Not every case is the same. This is such a difficult case, but IF the baby is severely deformed, I saw pull the plug. Either way one looks at it, it’s just difficult. What if the baby is born, but she/he is so messed up and in extreme pain?


  4. kittycat77 says:

    Sorry, meant to say “I say pull the plug,” not “saw.” My typo.


  5. auscitizenmom says:

    I can understand keeping the mother on life support when when a fetus is farther along than this one and the circumstances of the mother’s death are clearer. In this case they didn’t even know how long she was without oxygen which would also deprive the fetus. I really feel for this family. I think the decision should have been theirs all along.


    • LetJusticePrevail" says:

      I see what you mean. When this was first reported there was no mention of the baby’s state of health. Now I see in this most recent article that the child is “distinctly abnormal.”

      That puts this case in a slightly different light. Since the mother is deceased, any risk to her health is (obviously) moot, so that only leaves the life of the child as a consideration. But, isn’t this now a matter of someone deciding who lives and who dies, based on a subjective opinion about the “quality” of life versus the value of that life, itself?
      That’s a serious ethical question.

      At what point is it morally “OK” for a doctor, judge (or parent) to decide to abort a child due to genetic, or developmental abnormalities? Is nine toes to few? Are twelve toes too many? Should gestation of Downes Syndrome children automatically be terminated?
      What are the parameters to base this decision on, and who sets those parameters? And, once established, are those parameters subject to later reinterpretation? Can this decision later be made on criteria other than mere health, or can it become a matter of “engineering” a child with the characteristics we happen to prefer at that time?
      How about kids who might have brown hair, when we really wanted a child with blonde hair? Want a son, instead of a daughter?

      Granted, all of this is an oversimplification, or a “slippery slope” argument. Or is it? I wonder. How many problems are we faced with today,based on legal precedents we set without ever realizing future ramifications? And that doesn’t even begin to address the Constitutional question of “Right to Life.”

      Like I said the very first time we discussed this: I’m glad this isn’t my wife and child we’re talking about. This is such a moral dilemma, it’s hard to imagine a decision that will leave this man free of guilt. I’m thankful I’m not in his shoes (or those of the judge or the hospital, either)


  6. kittycat77 says:

    Yep, I sure do feel for the family. So hard to say good-bye, and the love of your life. My heart goes out to that family and husband. May Yahweh be with them!


  7. Chip Bennett says:

    Sometimes there are no right answers. Prayers for peace for the family.


  8. LIndsay says:

    From what I have been able to find, the baby has hydrocephalus which is condition where the brain is enlarged and partially out of the skull. The lower extremities are garbled and there is little chance of survival. I am thinking about what I would do if my daughter was in a similar situation. I know that whatever I might say now couldn’t really count in a real situation in my family, We had to make end of life decisions with my parents. We had lengthy conversations ahead of time and knew their wishes. The Mother is an EMT and they had conversations about artificially extending life, although no mention was made about a baby involved. I think the husband and both sides of the family are all in agreement that the machines should be turned off. So glad it is not my family here.


    • scaretactics says:

      Yes, this is sad. Hydrocephalis simply means “water on the brain” and there are many babies born with this condition. A shunt can be placed inside the skull to drain the excess fluid. If the skull is actually open, that is more serious. Underdeveloped extremities are rare but this is not a life – threatening condition. People can live without arms and legs.

      This reminds me of a charity that my husband and I support. It is called “Help the Helpless” and is located in India and run by a priest. These kids are born with undeveloped extremities, and the parents think they are “unclean” so they give these kids away. The priest and his staff give these kids a home and a life.

      I feel for this entire family, especially the unborn baby.


      • LIndsay says:

        It wasn’t just the extremities, but the article indicated that even the sex of the baby could not be determined due to deformities. This baby suffered the same loss of oxygen that killed the Mother and the Doctors viewing the tests on the baby are not in dispute about it’s viability. I am about as pro life as one can be, but I also have compassion for the living,.They families with all the facts have agreed that they wish to end the suffering and the judge has agreed. I suspect that their are also medical facts on the baby not being presented to the public. I think the poster who stated that the baby should go to heaven with it’s Mother had it just about right.


  9. Lou says:

    life isn’t worth living in agony. I usually think of that Metallica video where the guy is living with pain but nobody knows.


  10. Lou says:

    I’m all for euthanasia. after being stationed on an extended tour in Europe, I’ve gotten a new perspective. the video One is eye opening. I could never understand how being pro-life or pro-choice ever became a right or left issue.


  11. doodahdaze says:

    This case is not over I think. Interesting arguments are still to be made. The law struggles in this area. If the person is dead then do they have any rights? The fetus is alive? Does it have any brain waves? Just wow. Can a dead mother make decisions for an alive fetus?


  12. doodahdaze says:

    Here is another interesting case. I wonder if the donor is a gay man.


    • LetJusticePrevail" says:

      I have read about the Kansas case before, and it was also being discussed on the Michael Medved show this afternoon. What this whole case boils down to is money.

      When the lesbian “parents” split up, one of them retained custody and filed for welfare from the state. Since the state doesn’t recognize gay marriage, the state had no legal avenue to pursue the absentee lesbian “parent” for repayment of the welfare benefits, so they went after “biological father” (sperm donor), just like they would do in a case with an unmarried heterosexual couple that conceived a child.

      Now, this guy was smart enough to sign an agreement giving up his parental rights, etc, but the state ain’t buying it because they want their money back. (It would also set a terrible legal precedent if they allowed parents to dump their financial responsibilities on the taxpayers this easily). So the state came up with the perfect solution: Declare the agreement invalid because the insemination was not done by a doctor, which keeps the sperm donor on the hook for the bills. It’s also a “win” for the medical profession because it eliminates some incentives for people to use the “turkey baster” method to avoid paying a doctor to do it for them. The Dr’s win, the State (taxpayers) win, and the child (hopefully) wins by getting ample support for his/her lifetime. Not to mention that they have avoided making any decision that undermines state law in regards to same gender marriages.

      Sure, the “sperm donor” isn’t too happy about all of this, but that’s his own fault for not getting better legal advice before undertaking an endeavor that would ultimately result in the conception of another human being. He should have been aware of the legal responsibilities involved, and taken steps to ensure he was covered from this sort of thing. But wait… maybe he isn’t that “dumb” at all…

      Because here’s another thought:

      How can anyone be certain that this entire scenario wasn’t intentionally created simply to set some legal precedent, or create a way to challenge KS laws on same gender marriages?

      Perhaps the male IS a gay rights activist, and agreed to all of this as an attempt to get a judge to rule that the lesbian couple’s union was sufficient enough to make THEM solely financially responsible for the rearing of the child, which strengthens claims that some sort of legal precedent has been set that recognizes same gender marriages? OR, this case gives the male the chance to get in front of a judge who rules against him, allowing him to appeal this thing all the way to the federal (SC?) level where a ruling can be made in regards to the constitutionality of KS laws regarding same gender marriages. My guess is, there will be appeals to any rulings. Just have to watch where the money to pay the lawyers comes from…


  13. kittycat77 says:

    Due to the medical things of this day and time, it’s brought up many issues. Used to someone who was in the shape of that woman would have just died on her own and the child as well. But in today’s time, they can keep your heart beating indefinitely for as long as they want, I guess. Every case is different, though. If this child had been a little further along and shown that it appeared healthy, then that’s a totally different story.

    It’s almost as if we have a blessing and a curse today in medicine. Like I said, used to we didn’t have to think in this regard, right?


    • LetJusticePrevail" says:

      “It’s almost as if we have a blessing and a curse today in medicine.”

      Very true. With every “miracle of medicine” we have introduced a plethora of ethical questions that test our ability to navigate through moral dilemmas and still remain consistent with our basic beliefs. Before we “took things into our own hands” those problems were left in the hands of our creator, or to fate, (whichever your prefer) and their were no “choices” that needed to be considered, or second guessed. In this age, however, we have come to realize that just about anything we can “imagine”, we can “do” so the question becomes not whether we “can”, but whether we “should.”


  14. justfactsplz says:

    I feel so sorry for this family. They are not only grieving for the loss of this woman but grieving for this poor little baby. There are no easy answers. May God be with them and give them comfort and peace.


    • tessa50 says:

      I agree there are no easy answers, but I am troubled by her DNR being ignored. Just thinking of patients everywhere, not this mother in particular. This case really does open up a whole lot of questions medically, and morally.


      • justfactsplz says:

        Yes, it does. A DNR is supposed to be honored and recusitation not performed. I have mixed feelings about the subject. I never want to be on a ventilator if I am brain dead. I have a living will but thank the Lord I did not have it on file at the hospital back in 2008. I had been extremely dizzy and my mother insisted I call an ambulance. They transported me to the hospital. I was there less than five minutes when I had vfib and my heart stopped and I flatlined. They brought me back. If they had had the living will they would have not brought me back. So here I am and I am not brain dead. If I were pregnant and I was brain dead though, I would want every effort to be made to save the child.


  15. Richard M Nixon (Deceased) says:

    Reblogged this on Dead Citizen's Rights Society.


  16. Josh says:

    What we have to do is learn from this. Put your wishes in writing and have them notarized.


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