It is the decision that no loved one wishes to make: turning off the life support machine of your brain-dead pregnant wife. This is the heart wrenching predicament that Erick Munoz, husband of a brain dead Texas woman finds himself in.
Mr Munoz wishes the life support machine that his wife, Marlise Munoz, is on to be switched off. However, the John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, where Mrs Munoz remains an inpatient, has refused to do so, maintaining that a state law requires the hospital to continue treating a pregnant patient.
Marlise Munoz, who like her husband is a qualified paramedic, was 14 weeks pregnant when she sustained a suspected pulmonary embolism which left her brain dead two months ago.
It is understood that a lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr Munoz on January 14 submits that the law does not apply in the present case as Mrs Munoz is legally and medically brain dead, with no realistic prospect of recovery. The hospital relies on a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act that states: ‘ A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.’ However experts in the field maintain that the patient is legally dead, and therefore the law cannot be said to apply. Professor Tom Mayo, a law academic from the Southern Methodist University observed that he did not believe the law applied in this case.
The wellbeing of the fetus is unclear. Lawyers representing Mr Munoz have requested an expedited hearing, however at present, no court date has been set.
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