News Law and Policy

Hospital Agrees to Obey Court Ruling and Removes Mechanical Support From Munoz Corpse

Andrea Grimes

Marlise Munoz's family will finally be able to say goodbye to the 33-year-old, who collapsed in her home nearly nine weeks ago.

Read more of our coverage on Marlise Munoz’s case here.

At approximately 11:30 a.m. (CT), in accordance with the order of the 96th District Court of Tarrant County, Texas, issued Friday, January 24, 2014, Marlise Munoz’s body was disconnected from “life support” and released to her husband, Erick Munoz. According to lawyers for the Munoz and Machado families, they “will now proceed with the somber task of laying Marlise Munoz’s body to rest, and grieving over the great loss that has been suffered. May Marlise Munoz finally rest in peace, and her family find the strength to complete what has been an unbearably long and arduous journey.

Earlier this morning, hospital officials in Fort Worth, Texas, released a statement saying that they would not challenge the court ruling compelling them to take Marlise Munoz, the brain-dead woman who collapsed in her home in November, off the machines being used to operate her heart and lungs. Munoz’s body had been kept on mechanical support to continue gestating a fetus that was 14-weeks when she died.

“From the onset, [John Peter Smith Hospital] has said its role was not to make nor contest law but to follow it,” said officials in the statement. The statement continued, “On Friday, a state district judge ordered the removal of life-sustaining treatment from Marlise Munoz. The hospital will follow the court order.”

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Calling the Munoz case a “sad situation,” John Peter Smith Hospital (JPSH) said it “followed what we believed were the demands of a state statute.” That statute, a 1999 advance directives law, dictates that “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.”

Marlise Munoz’s husband and parents have contended since November that Marlise, a paramedic, told them she never wanted to be kept on life support. Nevertheless, over the past eight weeks, JPSH officials have refused to take Munoz off of the machines sustaining her heart and lung functions, saying they had no choice but to continue Munoz’s pregnancy on her behalf and against her, and her family’s, wishes.

Anti-choice groups supported the hospital’s decision and protested Friday’s court hearing, while right-wing lawmakers lobbied to keep Munoz hospitalized; an anti-choice pastor told CNN on Friday that “something or somebody should’ve appointed an attorney to represent that baby.”

In court documents, hospital officials conceded that the fetus Munoz carried was not viable; test results showed a “distinctly abnormal” fetus, with “deformed” lower extremities that made sex identification impossible, as well as hydrocephalus and a potential heart problem.

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