A Fort Worth, Texas, woman who was 14 weeks pregnant when she was found unconscious and brain dead after suffering a pulmonary embolism, has been taken off life support after a weeks-long court battle by the hospital to keep the ventilator on.
A ventilator that had kept Marlise Munoz’s heart and lungs functioning for two months was switched off at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, a family attorney said.
State District Judge R.H. Wallace ordered Friday that Munoz be taken off life support because John Peter Smith Hospital had misapplied a state law that prevents the termination of life support to a pregnant woman. Wallace said the law does not apply because the woman had been declared legally dead.
“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,” a hospital statement said. “JPS Health Network has followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute.”
The hospital had acknowledged that Munoz, 33, was brain dead when she was admitted on November 28 and that the fetus she was carrying was no longer viable. But, it argued that it was following the law by keeping her on the ventilator.
Marlise’s husband, Erick Munoz, a paramedic, sought to have her removed from life support.
“In an affidavit filed Thursday in court, … Munoz said little to him was recognizable about his wife. Her bones crack when her stiff limbs move. Her usual scent has been replaced by the ‘smell of death.’ And her once lively eyes have become ‘soulless.’”
“The hospital’s position drew support from demonstrators outside the hospital, some of whom held signs last week that read ‘God stands for life’ and ‘Praying for Baby Munoz and family.’ But others countered with placards bearing messages like ‘Let Marlise rest in peace’ and ‘Respect Marlise’s wishes.’”