A pregnant woman who lapsed into a brain-dead state late last year was removed from life support on Sunday after a Texas hospital complied with a judge’s order to disconnect her from the machines keeping her alive.
Marlise Munoz stopped receiving life-sustaining treatment at around 11:30 a.m local time (1:30 p.m. ET) and her body was released to her husband Erick, a statement from the family attorneys said Sunday. The fetus, which was at 23 weeks’ gestation, was not delivered.
Erick Munoz had sued the hospital because it would not remove life support as he said his wife would have wanted in such a situation.
The family “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,” the statement added. “May Marlise Munoz finally rest in peace, and her family find the strength to complete what has been an unbearably long and arduous journey.”
Munoz had been on life support John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, since November 26 after suffering what her husband believes was a pulmonary embolism. She was 14 weeks pregnant at the time.
Both the hospital and family agreed that she met the criteria to be considered brain-dead — which means she is dead both medically and under Texas law — and that her fetus could not be born alive.
However, Texas law that says life-sustaining treatment cannot be withdrawn or withheld from a pregnant patient, despite a “do not resuscitate” request from the patient or a request from the family and the hospital declined to remove life support.
Erick Munoz and his wife both worked as paramedics and were familiar with end-of-life issues and he insisted both were clear that they did not want to be kept alive by machines in this type of situation as he battled the hospital’s decision in court.
Lawyers for the family had argued that she was clinically dead, could no longer be considered a pregnant woman and that the fetus she was carrying was severely damaged.
On Friday, Tarrant County District Judge R.H. Wallace gave the hospital until 5 p.m. ET on Monday to disconnect Munoz, 33, from her ventilator.
In a statement issued Sunday, the hospital said they would “follow the court order,” adding that their role was “not to make nor contest law but to follow it.”
“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,” the statement added.
Anti-abortion activists attended Friday’s court hearing and spoke out in favor of trying to deliver the fetus.