Family of Pregnant, Brain-Dead Woman Wants to Remove Life Support

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    The family of a pregnant, brain-dead Tarrant County woman plans to take legal action to pull her off life support.

    The family of a pregnant, brain dead Tarrant County woman plans to take legal action to pull her off life support.

    Marlise Munoz has been on life support since her husband, Erick Munoz, found his wife unconscious in the early morning hours of Nov. 26. The family said it doesn't know the exact cause, though a pulmonary embolism is a possibility. Marlise Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant at the time.

    Her husband, a Crowley firefighter, and Marlise's parents argue that the now 20-week pregnant woman would not want to be kept alive this way.

    "It's our decision that we didn't want to live in that condition," Erick Munoz told The Associated Press.

    However, John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth said Texas law prevents them from withdrawing life-sustaining treatment and following a family directive when a pregnancy is involved.

    JPS Hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said the hospital believes the law is clear.

    "We are following the law of the state of Texas," Labbe told The Associated Press. "This is not a difficult decision for us. We are following the law."

    "We are not about making law. We are not about contesting law. And if this goes to a court or a judge who said you need to change what you're doing in any way, then we will follow the direction of the legal system," Labbe told NBC 5.

    But three experts interviewed by The Associated Press, including two who helped draft the law, said a brain dead patient's case wouldn't be covered by the law.

    "This patient is neither terminally nor irreversibly ill," said Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the office of clinical ethics and palliative care for Baylor Health Care System. "Under Texas law, this patient is legally dead."

    Tom Mayo, a Southern Methodist University law professor, said the hospital would lose absolute immunity from a civil or criminal case if it granted the request, but noted that "most medical decisions" are made without immunity.

    There was no word on when the legal paperwork would be filed by Munoz' family. Even then, the battle could continue as courts and even state lawmakers may be pulled into the decision.

    NBC 5's Greg Janda and the Associate Press' Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.