A Texas judge ended the latest right-to-life controversy on Friday by ordering a Fort Worth hospital to remove a brain-dead pregnant woman from life support.
Judge R.H. Wallace ordered administrators from John Peter Smith Hospital to remove Marlise Munoz, 33, from ventilators and respirators by 5 p.m. Monday. Erick Munoz, her husband, had sued the hospital over its interpretation of a Texas law forbidding the removal of life support for any pregnant woman in a coma. Munoz and other family members argued the law was never meant to apply to the rare instance in which a pregnant woman in a coma might be declared brain dead.
However, both sides came closer to agreement in court Friday on the essential fact listed in a court document: Munoz has “met the clinical criteria for brain death since Nov. 28” and that “the fetus gestating inside Mrs. Munoz is not viable.” The young woman had been found slumped on the kitchen floor at 2 a.m. on Nov. 26, after which time she was taken to a north-central Texas hospital where a clinician advised her husband she was effectively “brain dead," as reported by CNN. Erick Munoz also says doctors said his wife “had lost all activity in her brain stem,” while a note on an accompanying chart read “brain dead.”
The married couple, both paramedics, had left no living will to guide legal decisions in such an eventuality. Yet, the grieving husband — a widower by Monday, at least — says he and his wife discussed exactly such a scenario, with his wife choosing to be removed from artificial life support. In an affidavit filed in the court, Erick Munoz said little of his wife now reminds him of her former vitality — her scent replaced by the “smell of death” and her once lively eyes dimmed and “soulless.”
Jessica King, the Munoz family’s lawyer, put the medical event into broader perspective, The Chicago Times-Tribune reported. “Pregnant women die every day,” she said after the hearing. “They die in car accidents, of heart attacks, and other injuries. And when they die, their fetus dies with them. It’s the way it’s always been and the way it should be.” Hospital administrators on Friday released a statement expressing appreciation for the order’s potential impact but advising they’d first consult with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office there.