Family of Texas Woman on Life Support Plans Court Challenge

Tuesday, 14 Jan 2014 12:30 PM

By Lisa Barron

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The debate over a pregnant Texas woman on life support continues to gain national attention, with her family expected to take legal action this week against the hospital that refuses to take her off a ventilator.

Marlise Munoz has been kept alive since late November, when her husband, Erick Munoz, found her unconscious after she suffered a blood clot in her lungs. She was reportedly 14 weeks pregnant at the time.

The Munoz's, both paramedics, are also the parents of a 15-month old boy, but her family wants her removed from life support, reports CNN. "We were told she was brain dead on November 26th," her mother, Lynne Machado, told the network.

Her husband maintained that they had discussed the issue and she never wanted to be kept alive this way. "We've seen thing out in the field, and we both knew we didn't want to be on life support," he said.

But John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth has argued that under Texas law, it cannot withdraw “life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant “patient," according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"We are following the state of Texas," hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said last week. "This is not a difficult decision for us. We are following the law."

Attorneys for Erick Munoz told CNN a legal challenge is expected this week.

Protesters outside the hospital on Sunday sided with the family, reported NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. "Basically we just want it to be known that the practice of this state law is unethical," demonstrator Autumn Bracken told the station.

"It's a violation of Marlise's rights as a human being and as a woman. It's going against her family's wishes. And we basically want the state to stop telling us what to do with our bodies and respect the wishes."

Regardless of Muñoz’s condition, though, the founder of the Austin-based Texas Alliance for Life, Joe Pojman, believes she should be kept on the ventilator.

“There is an unborn child who is alive and deserves protection," he told the Star-Telegram. “We are commending John Peter Smith Hospital for doing everything it can to continue to protect the life of that child,” he said.

The hospital for its part says it is "encouraged" by the possibility of legal action because "the courts are the appropriate venue to provide clarity, direction and resolution in this matter," according to CNN.

The latest developments in the Munoz case are unfolding as medical experts question the actions of an unnamed facility in California that is keeping the body of 13-year old Jahi McMath on a ventilator, arguing that people who are declared brain-dead are no longer alive, reports the Los Angeles Times.

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