Friday afternoon, a Haltom City family will go to court and argue to end a loved one's life.
Munoz Family Ready to Argue to End Loved One's Life
Hearing on whether to pull life support is set for Friday afternoon
The family of Marlise Munoz, who has been declared brain dead, will speak before a judge tomorrow about how Munoz said she wouldn't want to be kept alive by machines. The hospital refuses to end her life support, because she's pregnant. (Published Thursday, Jan 23, 2014)
Updated at 7:27 PM CDT on Thursday, Jan 23, 2014
Marlise Munoz has been declared brain dead and her family said she wouldn't want to be kept alive by machines. But the hospital refuses to end her life support, because she's pregnant.
The fate of Marlise Munoz and her unborn baby has brought protesters, international attention and legal action.
Her husband Erick Munoz and her family said she would never wanted to be kept on life support after being considered brain dead.
John Peter Smith Hospital, part of the Tarrant County Hospital District, told Munoz that under state law it can't remove life sustaining efforts for pregnant patients and refused to follow his request to take her off of the machines.
It's a situation that raises difficult legal and ethical questions. Do you follow her wishes or let the fetus, which was at 14 weeks when she was first hospitalized, continue to live.
"It's just a tragedy and I think everyone should agree on that, it's just a sad thing indeed," said Dr. Richard Galvin, Texas Christian University professor of philosophy.
Galvin has taught medical ethics in the past and has been following the case closely, like many others. While it's a tough set of circumstances, he doesn't think it will be a difficult decision Friday for the 96th district court judge R.H. Wallace.
"This is not a case in which there is some sort of uncertainly about what the woman would want to have done," Galvin said. "It's very clear in this case that she has explicitly stated she does not want to have this done and the family concurs."
The family's lawyers released details on Wednesday about Munoz's and the fetus' conditions. Saying the fetus, now 22 weeks old, is "distinctly abnormal" and has a variety of health concerns.
"Quite sadly, this information is not surprising due to the fact that the fetus, after being deprived of oxygen for an indeterminate length of time, is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body, as a horrified family looks on in absolute anguish, distress and sadness," attorneys Heather King and Jessica Janicek said in a statement. "We reiterate, our client's position is that the statute prohibiting the withholding of life sustaining measures from a pregnant patient does not apply to the dead."
While the family's attorneys said this information should have no legal bearing in the case, Galvin thinks otherwise.
"It's sort of like piling on at this point, these are all considerations that speak against the hospital taking the action that it has," he said.
In court documents the Munoz family's attorneys said that JPS, being represented in court by the district attorney's office, is ignoring another state law that supersedes the one requiring life sustaining efforts for pregnant patients.
The county will defend it's decision and the Munoz family will argue for their loved one's right to die, but the decision will lie in the judge.
"And I sure do hope they have the wisdom and courage to do what the right thing is," Galvin said.
Of course, what's "right" varies from person to person. It's certainly an emotional issue and could be an emotional hearing as well. Supporters of the Munoz family, who protested at JPS, have indicated they will be present outside the courthouse before the hearing on Friday.
The district attorney's office does not comment on pending cases. The Munoz family attorney's did not return NBC 5's calls for comment on Thursday, following their statement on Wednesday.