Sunday, January 26th, 2014
Marlise Munoz, a pregnant Texas woman who was at the center of a heated court battle over the meanings of “alive” and “dead,” especially when there is a fetus involved, has been removed from the ventilator that had sustained her since she was pronounced brain-dead in late November. The hospital had refused to abide by her family’s wishes that she be removed from the life-support equipment, citing Texas law that prohibits removing a pregnant woman from the machines. Last week, a judge ordered the hospital to comply with the family’s wishes. More from CNN.com:
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The devices that had kept Marlise Munoz’s heart and lungs working for two months were switched off about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, her family’s attorneys announced.
“May Marlise Munoz finally rest in peace, and her family find the strength to complete what has been an unbearably long and arduous journey,” the lawyers, Heather King and Jessica Janicek, said in a written statement.
Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child when her husband found her unconscious on their kitchen floor November 26. Though doctors had pronounced her brain dead and her family had said she did not want to have machines keep her body alive, officials at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth had said state law required them to maintain life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient.
Sunday’s announcement came two days after a judge in Fort Worth ordered the hospital to remove any artificial means of life support from Munoz by 5 p.m. Monday. Earlier Sunday, the hospital said it intended to comply with that order.
“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,” a hospital statement said. “JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute.”
The hospital acknowledged Friday that Munoz, 33, had been brain dead since November 28 and that the fetus she carried was not viable. Her husband, Erick Munoz, had argued that sustaining her body artificially amounted to “the cruel and obscene mutilation of a deceased body” against her wishes and those of her family.
Thursday, January 9th, 2014
A Texas woman who collapsed and was declared brain dead after suffering an apparent blood clot in her lungs is remaining on life support despite her family’s wishes, the hospital citing Texas law prohibiting removing a pregnant woman from the machines. Thirty-three year-old Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her collapse. More from The New York Times:
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Mrs. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant, the doctor said, and Texas is one of more than two dozen states that prohibit, with varying degrees of strictness, medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient.
More than a month later, Mrs. Munoz remains connected to life-support machines on the third floor of the I.C.U., where a medical team monitors the heartbeat of the fetus, now in its 20th week of development. Her case has become a strange collision of law, medicine, the ethics of end-of-life care and the issues swirling around abortion — when life begins and how it should be valued.
“It’s not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life,” said Mrs. Munoz’s mother, Lynne Machado, 60. “It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honored by the state of Texas.”
Mrs. Munoz’s father, Ernest Machado, 60, a former police officer and an Air Force veteran, put it even more bluntly. “All she is is a host for a fetus,” he said on Tuesday. “I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?”
Mrs. Munoz’s parents said they wanted to see the law overturned, but they have not sought any legal action against the hospital, though they have not ruled it out either.
The hospital maintains that it is following the law, although several experts in medical ethics said they believed the hospital was misinterpreting it. A crucial issue is whether the law applies to pregnant patients who are brain-dead as opposed to those in a coma or a vegetative state. The law, first passed by the Texas Legislature in 1989 and amended in 1999, states that a person may not withdraw or withhold “life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant patient.
Mr. and Mrs. Machado said the hospital had made it clear to them that their daughter was brain-dead, but hospital officials have declined to comment on Mrs. Munoz’s care and condition, creating uncertainty over whether the hospital has formally declared her brain-dead.
A spokeswoman for the J.P.S. Health Network, the publicly financed hospital district in Tarrant County that runs the 537-bed John Peter Smith Hospital, defended the hospital’s actions. “In all cases, J.P.S. will follow the law as it applies to health care in the state of Texas,” the spokeswoman, Jill Labbe, said. “Every day, we have patients and families who must make difficult decisions. Our position remains the same. We follow the law.”