A Texas husband is unable to fulfill his pregnant wife’s wishes of a “do not resuscitate” plan after she suffered a tragic November incident leaving her brain-dead with a live fetus.
Erick Munoz, a paramedic in Tarrant Country, Texas, is currently facing a life-ending decision: taking his wife off life support or keeping the fetus alive. The couple, who were both paramedics, vowed to never keep each other on life support if the worst were to happen.
"We've talked about it. We're both paramedics and we've seen things out in the field," Munoz told ABC News. "We both knew that we didn't want to be on life support."
However, when Erick’s wife Marlise suffered a pulmonary embolism on Nov. 26 while 14 weeks pregnant, Texas law interfered with him pulling the plug.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says a pulmonary embolism occurs when there is a sudden blockage in a lung artery, which is typically caused by a blood clot that travels to the lung from a vein in the leg. This can damage part of the lung due to the lack of blood flow to the lung tissue and lead to pulmonary hypertension. If the blood clot is large or if there are many clots, it can cause death if left untreated with 30 percent of patients dying within the first few hours of the event.
In Marlise’s case, she was found unconscious on the kitchen floor, and despite Erick’s CPR attempts, she could not be brought back to life. Although Erick’s pregnant wife is now declared brain-dead after suffering a pulmonary embolism, the unborn child is reported to have a normal heartbeat.
While Erick and Marlise had both agreed to not put each other on life support under any circumstances, Texas law states she must be kept alive, even if it goes against her wishes, until the baby can be safely delivered.
According to Texas’ Health and Safety Code Section 166.049 Pregnant Patients, "A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient."
Even if the couple signed a do not resuscitate (DNR) order, the state’s DNR reads that the directive "has no effect if (the person) has been diagnosed as pregnant."
Doctors must follow all life saving measures to maintain the life of an unborn baby which remains too immature to survive outside the womb. Currently, the baby is now 18 weeks and is expected to be delivered by cesarean at 24 to 28 weeks, according to ABC News.
Medical officials at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, issued a statement saying, "We have families every day that face really difficult decisions when it comes to the care of their loved ones, and we would have the same response. We follow the law."
Erick may have asked a judge to issue an injunction that could allow his wife to be taken off life support, but the bereaved husband believes it will be a long battle that will be too heart-wrenching for him. "You just never think it's going to be you,” he said after acknowledging the baby could be born with several health complications.
Health concerns about the well-being of the child are based on the duration the baby was left without nutrients and oxygen, and an unborn child’s high risk of suffering brain damage.