On January 9 I wrote about the sad case of Marline Munoz, a paramedic from Texas who died in November of a pulmonary embolism, but was pregnant at the time. She a living will stating her desire for no artificial means of keeping her alive after brain death, but her pregnancy kept the hospital from turning off the respirator. According to Texas state law, a woman’s legal prerogative about end-of-life care is overruled if she “is diagnosed with pregnancy.” The hospital stated it would not go against that law.
There was quite a bit of discussion about whether the state had the right to do this, although I argued that the initial wishes of Munoz, and the postmortem wishes of her husband and family—both of whom wanted to take her off life support—trumped any interest or rights of the State of Texas. Munoz is, even now still below the 24-28 weeks threshold that Roe v. Wade suggested for the legal period of abortion. I thus saw it as a legal no-brainer.
Now, according to multiple news sources, a Texas district judge agrees, and has ordered Munoz removed from life support, and the hospital agreed today to abide by the judge’s decision. According to USA Today:
On Friday, State District Judge R.H. Wallace ruled that [Munoz] “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.
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 only thing that puzzles me is the hospital’s original claim that there was a state statute overruling the wishes of someone who is brain-dead, and yet the judge decided that Munoz could be taken off life support because she is brain-dead.
What makes this case even more bizarre is that medical opinion already suggested strongly that the fetus would not be born either normal or even alive because of Munoz’s condition. But Texas nevertheless persisted:
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.”
Move along now, folks: there’s nothing to see here. The wishes of Munoz and her family have been respected, and Texas and its insane restrictions on reproductive rights have lost. The state’s desire to stick its nose where it didn’t belong made the plight of the Munoz family a lot harder.
h/t: Ben Goren