The case of Marlise Munoz in Texas has divided the United States and shocked the world. Brain dead since November, she is kept alive against her will and that of her family because of a law forcing them to save the fetus she is carrying. However, after weeks of legal interpretations, a judge in Tarrant County has declared Marlise Munoz, 33, legally dead and ordered the hospital to remove her from life support.
The young woman must be disconnected from the machine keeping her alive by Monday, Jan 27, 5:00 pm.
On Wednesday, the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) had launched a petition addressed to the State Attorney General, Greg Abbott, asking “to leave difficult, personal decisions in the hands of families and support the Munoz’s family’s decision to take Marlise off of life support, as she wanted.” After the sudden death of his brother four years ago, Marlise Munoz told her husband that she would never want to be kept in life support without the hope of recovery.
The case, which combines both the issue of abortion with euthanasia and the interpretation of the law, dates back to November 26. Marlise Munoz, then 14 weeks pregnant, had collapsed in the middle of the night on the floor of her kitchen, likely victim of a pulmonary embolism. She was then taken to John Peter Smith (JPS) Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas where she was pronounced brain dead but kept alive artificially for being pregnant, as required by state law.
Texas is one of 12 states that have adopted strict regulations requiring the continuation of life support, regardless of the stage of pregnancy. On Friday, the hospital said in a statement that “JPS Health Network appreciates the potential impact of the consequences of the order on all parties involved and will be consulting with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office.”
On Wednesday, attorneys for the family indicated that the fetus she is carrying, now aged 22 weeks, is “distinctly abnormal”, a situation that the family had feared since the accident. “Even at this early stage, the lower extremities are deformed to the extent that the gender cannot be determined,” the lawyers said, explaining that the fetus “after being deprived of oxygen for an indeterminate length of time, is gestating within a dead and deteriorating body, as a horrified family looks on in absolute anguish, distress and sadness.”
Barbara Coombs Lee, President of the Compassion and Choices Organization, which campaigns for the right to choose to die, in an article titled “Texas Hospital Keeps Pregnant Body Functioning: Where Could This Lead?” published on the organization’s website said “This tragic story holds implications far beyond one family’s nightmare. If institutional decisions can override family decisions and appropriate a body to serve its own purposes or that of the state, then no one is safe from government overreach. In this case the state and the hospital conspire to maintain a body while a fetus develops, theoretically because they have a compelling interest in the fetal life.”