Judge R. H. Wallace Jr. of the State District Court in Tarrant County, Texas, ruled today that the John Peter Smith Hospital of Fort Worth must bring life support to a halt for Marlise Muñoz. The hospital was also instructed to declare the 33-year-old woman dead. The deadline for pulling the plug is 5 p.m. on January 27.
Muñoz, is married and is the mother of one child. She has been on life support since November 26 when she collapsed in her home. Reportedly, she suffered a blood clot in her lung. She was in the 14th week of her pregnancy at that time. Her husband, Erick, 26, and her mother and father said that Marlise was brain dead. Accordingly, they requested that the respirators keeping her alive be removed. According to reports, Muñoz had once requested her family members to remove her from respirators in such an evantuality.
However, physicians at the Fort Worth hospital refused, citing Texas law that prevents them from withdrawing or withholding “life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant woman. Thereafter, Munoz's husband filed a lawsuit demanding that the court order physicians to take her off the respirators.
Speaking before the court, the lawyer for Erick Muñoz argued keeping Marlise on life support would set a dangerous precedent in future cases of pregnant brain-dead women. Judge Wallace said “This is tragic and very difficult case.” He sided with the family and ruled that Texas law was note relevant in the case of Marlise Muñoz.
However, attorneys for J.P.S. Health Network, the publicly financed county hospital district that operates John Peter Smith Hospital, argued in court that Texas law was indeed correctly applied in this case. It was not clear at the close of business on January 24 whether the legal for J.P.S. Health Network would appeal the ruling.
Earlier in the week before the January 24 ruling, the attorney for Erick Munoz claimed that the baby Marlise Munoz is carrying is "distinctly abnormal.' According to a report by Slate - an online publication - bioethicist Arthur Caplan of New York University said that a "damaged fetus", the cost of treatment, and the wishes of both Marlise and Erick Munoz suggest that the "misinterpretation" of the Texas law may be unconstitutional. According to Caplain, this point into the direction of who should make the decision to end the life of Marlise, "Not the hospital, not the legislature, not pro-life or pro-choicers—the husband.”