Pregnant Texas woman, brain dead, removed from life support

A brain-dead Texas woman who was 22 weeks pregnant was removed from life support Sunday, and her body was expected to be turned over to her family, attorneys for her husband announced.

Marlise Munoz, 33, had been on life support for about two months at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth after falling unconscious in her home in November with a possible blood clot in her lung. Although she was brain dead, and considered dead under Texas law, the hospital refused to take her off life support, citing a state law that prohibits hospitals from suspending “life-sustaining treatment” for patients who are pregnant. Marlise Munoz was about 14 weeks pregnant when she fell ill on Nov. 26.

Her husband, Erick Munoz, sued the hospital for “cruel and obscene mutilation” of a dead body. On Friday, a state judge ordered the hospital to take her off life support by 5 p.m. Monday.

Texas District Judge R.H. Wallace ruled the state’s pregnancy protection law didn’t apply to someone who was legally dead. Marlise Munoz’s fetus had been deemed “distinctly abnormal” by her husband’s attorneys. In a joint affidavit filed before the Friday hearing, the hospital acknowledged the fetus was not viable.

The hospital considered whether to appeal, but announced Sunday it would comply.

Attorneys for Erick Munoz said his wife was taken off life support at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

“The Munoz and Machado families will now proceed with the somber task of laying Marlise Munoz’s body to rest, and grieving over the great loss that has been suffered,” Heather King and Jessica Janicek, attorneys for Erick Munoz, said in a statement, according to the AP. “May Marlise Munoz finally rest in peace, and her family find the strength to complete what has been an unbearably long and arduous journey.”

In a statement released earlier Sunday, John Peter Smith Hospital officials said, “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.

“JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute,” the statement continued. “From the onset, JPS has said its role was not to make nor contest law but to follow it.”

Because of the judge’s orders, the hospital said, it would take Marlise Munoz off life support.

Both husband and wife were paramedics and had seen death. Erick Munoz said his wife had said she did not want to be kept alive by machine in such a situation.

In an affidavit filed in court Thursday, Erick Munoz said it was clear to him his wife was no longer alive.

“When I bend down to kiss her forehead, her usual scent is gone, replaced instead with what I can only describes as the smell of death,” he wrote in court papers.

“One of the most painful parts of watching my wife’s deceased body lie trapped in a hospital bed each day is the soulless look in her eyes,” he continued. “Her eyes, once full of the ‘glimmer of life,’ are empty and dead. My wife is nothing more than an empty shell. She died in November 2013, and what sits in front of me is a deteriorating body.”

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