Brain-dead pregnant woman taken off life support ending arduous court battle


A court fight that made national headlines about who is alive and who is dead and how the presence of a fetus can alter that equation, ended yesterday when Marlise Munoz was taken off life support in Fort Worth, Texas.

Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child when her husband, firefighter Erick Munoz, found her unconscious on their kitchen floor on November 26. In spite of doctors pronouncing her brain dead and her family’s declarations that it was her wish not to remain on machines to keep her body alive, officials at John Peter Smith Hospital argued that they had no choice but to maintain life-sustaining treatment because of a Texas law involving a pregnant patient.

The law is called the Texas Advance Directives Act and it reads in part that the wish of a woman to be taken off life support is invalidated if that woman has been “diagnosed as pregnant.”

On Friday the hospital stated that the 33-year-old mother had been brain dead since November 28 and that the fetus she was carrying was not viable. Erick Munoz, who has been outspoken about his wife’s wishes, believed that the artificial maintaining of his wife’s body was akin to the “cruel and obscene mutilation of a deceased body.”

A judge ordered that Munoz be taken off life support by 5pm today and on Sunday the hospital said that it would comply with that order. The family’s lawyers issued the following official statement after Munoz was taken off the machines keeping her body alive, “May Marlise Munoz finally rest in peace, and her family find the strength to complete what has been an unbearably long and arduous journey.”

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