2014 Archives

Pregnant, brain-dead Texas woman kept alive

Excerpt

The following is from an Associated Press story that appeared in the Jan. 3, 2014, edition of The Washington Post and numerous other publications. Tom Mayo, an associate professor of law and a medical ethicist at SMU, provided expertise for this story.

January 6, 2014

DALLAS — Marlise Munoz lies in a North Texas hospital, 19 weeks pregnant but with no chance of seeing her child born.

Her husband, Erick Munoz, says a doctor told him she’s brain dead, but John Peter Smith Hospital is refusing to allow him to take her off of life support. The hospital says Texas law prohibits it from following a family directive when a pregnancy is involved, although three experts say the hospital is misreading the law in question.

The case is raising questions about end-of-life care and stands in stark contrast to that of a 13-year-old girl in California whose family is trying to keep her on life support after she was declared brain dead. In that case, the hospital wants to disconnect her from a ventilator, saying the girl is legally dead.

In the Texas case, Munoz said he and his wife both worked as paramedics and have seen life and death up close . . .

Hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said she isn’t permitted to confirm that Marlise Munoz had been declared brain-dead, only that she was pregnant and hospitalized in serious condition.

 “We are following the law of the state of Texas,” Labbe said. “This is not a difficult decision for us. We are following the law.” . . .

Tom Mayo, a Southern Methodist University law professor, said he did not believe the law applied in this case. He said the hospital would not have absolute immunity from a civil or criminal case if it went outside the subchapter referenced by the law, but noted that “most medical decisions” are made without immunity.

While not ruling out legal action, Erick Munoz said Friday that he was more concerned about letting others know about his family’s ordeal and possibly pushing for a change to state law to clarify it.

Read the full story.


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