Pregnant Texas Woman Taken Off Life Support

5:05 PM, Jan 25, 2014   |    comments
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Laura Petrecca, and Natalie DiBlasio, USA TODAY

A pregnant brain-dead woman who has been at the center of much controversy has been removed from life support.

Marlise Muñoz, 33, who is believed to be about 22 weeks pregnant, had been kept on life support against the wishes of her husband and family.

On Friday, State District Judge R.H. Wallace ruled that she "is deceased" and therefore not subject to a state law that prohibits withdrawal of treatment from a pregnant person. The judge said the Fort Worth facility, John Peter Smith Hospital, had until 5 p.m. Monday to remove Munoz from life support.

On Sunday morning, she was taken off her ventilator.

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

The hospital issued a statement Sunday saying it had kept Munoz on life support to follow "the demands of a state statute" and has decided that "the hospital will follow the court 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," JPS Health Network said in an e-mailed statement Sunday. "From the onset, JPS has said its role was not to make nor contest law but to follow it."

The case has raised questions about end-of-life care and whether a pregnant woman who is considered legally and medically dead should be kept on life support for the sake of a fetus. It also has gripped attention on both sides of the abortion debate as opponents of abortion argued that Munoz's fetus deserved a chance to be born.

Husband Erick found his wife unconscious on Nov. 26, possibly because of a blood clot. He has said she told him that if she ever was in her present condition, she did not want to be kept alive.

Both the hospital and the family agree that Marlise Munoz meets the criteria to be considered brain-dead -- which means she is dead medically and under Texas law -- and that the fetus could not be born alive at the current stage of pregnancy. But the hospital had said that it had a legal duty to protect the fetus.

Munoz's attorneys have said medical records show the fetus is "distinctly abnormal."

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